Hong Kong Extends Mandatory 14-Day Quarantine to July 7, A Setback to Macau Casinos

Posted on: June 3, 2020, 09:58h. 

Last updated on: June 3, 2020, 10:27h.

Hong Kong has extended to July 7 its requirement that anyone arriving from Macau enter a 14-day quarantine. The decision will further delay the casino hub’s urgent mission to restart its economy, which greatly relies on tourism and gambling.

Hong Kong quarantine Macau casinos
Those arriving in Hong Kong from Macau deemed to be high risk of containing the coronavirus can be forced to live in quarantine centers such as Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village (pictured). (Image: Martin Chan/South China Morning Post)

Hong Kong’s announcement yesterday extending the quarantine mandate comes after officials there said the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) identified four new clusters of COVID-19, which has prompted “super spreader” fears. Anyone entering Hong Kong from Macau, Taiwan, or mainland China – the only three areas Hong Kong is permitting entry – must undergo quarantine.

“It is expected that there may be sporadic infection cases or even small outbreaks in the community,” said Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee.

Hong Kong has 1,094 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and four deaths. Macau has just 45, and no deaths – and no new cases in more than 55 days.

Upon entry into Hong Kong, health officials assess each arrival with a risk-based approach to decide who must stay at a government-facilitated quarantine center. Those permitted to self-quarantine at home are monitored by an electronic wristband.

Tourism Setback

In a world free of a pandemic, Hong Kong is a major thoroughfare for Macau, as it’s a global business hub and has the 13th-busiest airport in the world. Travel between the two SARs, however, has come to a halt.

Macau is also limiting inbound arrivals from Hong Kong, mainland China, and Taiwan. Visitor arrivals totaled just 11,041 last month, a 99.7 percent plunge from April 2019.

Hong Kong’s decision to extend its quarantine rule is another blow to the recovery of Macau’s casinos.

“This is a disappointment for those waiting for a ‘Greater Bay Area travel bubble’ to kick in this month, including us,” said JP Morgan Securities Asia Pacific analysts DS Kim, Derek Choi, and Jeremy An.

Officials in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau have been mulling a travel covenant that would allow residents in the three areas to move freely without quarantines. But that is being postponed until at least early July.

The JP Morgan analysts said there is a “very small chance” that Macau and Guangdong would proceed with a cross-border arrangement in the interim. “It’s probably reasonable to think a travel bubble will not happen until July 7, as the Chinese government might prefer not to treat two SARs differently,” the note added.

Casinos Remain Open

Macau has requested that the six licensed casino operators retain their work forces and remain open. They have, albeit in much reduced capacities.

Gross gaming revenue dropped 93 percent last month, with win totaling $221 million. In May of 2019, the casinos reported GGR of $3.2 billion.

May marked the enclave’s eighth straight monthly gaming revenue decline. The coronavirus follows China’s suppression of VIP junket groups in 2014-15, the ongoing trade war between the US and People’s Republic, and political outrage in Hong Kong that began last year over a proposed mainland extradition bill that remains unsettled.