Chief tightens the borders

Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, gave a press briefing today at which he announced the following policies (GOV):

  • Beginning at midnight, Macau will no longer allow entry to anyone with a recent travel record overseas, except local residents, who must go into 14-day quarantine upon arrival. 
  • Residents of the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, may still come in if they have not been overseas, and if they are prepared to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival.
  • This order includes a temporary suspension of transit through Macau airport. 

Ho said he was grateful to the Hong Kong government for agreeing to allow Macau to pick up returning students from overseas at the Hong Kong International Airport, after it had decided to no longer allow any non-residents to re-enter the city. This requires Macau cars to collect their returnees inside the immigration area of the HKIA.

He said the government will be switching its primary attention from prevention of imported cases from mainland to prevention of imported cases from overseas. The decision on when to reopen the IVS visas, therefore, will take place once both Macau and Guangdong authorities are comfortable that the Covid-19 situation has been brought safely under control. This will likely happen once there are no confirmed local cases in either Macau or Zhuhai. An assessment could take place at the end of March or early April.

In the meantime, Ho said Macau is now facing heavier pressure than before with an increasing number of returnees from overseas. More hotel rooms are required to accommodate them during mandatory 14-day quarantines. He expressed disappointment that the government had been unable to secure commitment in this endeavor from the integrated resorts. 

Understanding that public opinion is against having quarantine hotels near residential areas, Ho said integrated resorts with 3,000 rooms would be ideal. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, however, the government will not use its legal powers to requisition hotels for medical observation purposes. 

When asked by a reporter whether the concessionaires which have donated funds and supplies during the epidemic period would gain credit for their acts of social responsibility during the 2022 license renewal process, Ho said the Covid-19 crisis had been a big challenge to the new government, which had been onboard less than 100 days so far, but it was also “an examination” for the concessionaries. “They should think more seriously about what is social responsibility,” he said, adding that “it’s not only about donations and putting a press release on newspapers”. 

When a reporter asked whether a condition related to “social responsibility” would be added to the requirements for concession renewal, Ho said: “Social responsibility is social responsibility. Concession renewal is concession renewal. Don’t mix these up. However, I won’t eliminate this possibility.” 

Switching to the issue of local SMEs, Ho said the government hopes SMEs can survive and protect the employment of Macau residents. However, as “doing business is not a risk-free thing”, the government will not consider providing further support to SMEs, for now, other than what has already been pledged. “Giving them money is easy, but it is not what a responsible government should do,” he said. 

As for the MOP3,000 consumer coupons and whether the government might pledge further handouts, Ho said the government will wait and evaluate the next steps. “Although Macau is rich, the government must utilize its funds appropriately” while the budget will run a 40 billion pataca deficit this year, and tax revenues are falling. 

Looking ahead to the Policy Address, Ho said it would likely be postponed until after the NPC and CPPCC meetings are concluded in Beijing, probably in April. Its content will not likely be substantially changed, however. Administrative reforms remain a priority, while construction projects are ongoing. 

The Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau has approved more than 100 projects, while the Municipal Affairs Bureau has also over 100 projects on hand. Their purpose is to solve employment problems so that the economy will not slow down, and to boost the economy’s recovery in the longer-term. More will be spent on infrastructure in the coming years, he said.

An “adjustment of the mind and mental approach” is needed among all citizens, Ho said, in commenting on the outlook for unemployment. The Labor Affairs Bureau will try its best to provide assistance, he added.

In conclusion, Ho said every decision made by the government during the anti-epidemic period had been a very difficult one, knowing that inconvenience and unhappiness is unavoidable. The government can only seek a balance between its choices in making decisions. He also also thanked the media for their hard work around the clock since January, and said he hoped everyone could strive to get through these difficult days together. 

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