Macau, Hong Kong Require Vaxx for Quarantine-Free Travel Between SARs

Posted on: December 21, 2021, 06:57h. 

Last updated on: December 21, 2021, 11:02h.

Macau and Hong Kong continue to wait on Beijing for permission to allow cross-border travel between the two Chinese Special Administrative Regions (SARs) without quarantine. When that happens, a leading government official in Macau said only those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be immune from medical observations.

Macau casino Hong Kong travel China
A tourist from Shanghai works out in his quarantine hotel in China’s Hunan Province. Government officials in Macau proof of vaccination will be required for quarantine-free cross-border travel with Hong Kong once resumed. (Image: Getty)

Macau Social Affairs and Culture Secretary Elsie Ao Ieong U provided insight into how the quarantine-free cross-border flow of people from nearby Hong Kong will work once allowed. She spoke at an event this week celebrating the 22nd anniversary of Macau being handed back to China from Portugal,

Ao noted that only people who have been deemed fully inoculated against the coronavirus will qualify to travel between Macau and Hong Kong without being required to undergo 14 days of medical observation. The secretary explained that fully vaccinated travelers will still need to undergo a nucleic acid test upon arrival at the Macau or Hong Kong border gate.

Since quarantines are currently imposed on all travelers regardless of vaccination status, the flow of people between the two SARs remains essentially nonexistent. Nearly 7.4 million people traveled to the casino hub from Hong Kong in 2019. That number tumbled to 843,165 in 2020.

Initial Quota

Once Beijing officials give the go-ahead to Macau and Hong Kong to resume quarantine-free cross-border travel, the two SARs plan to limit how many people are able to travel to the nearby region. Ao says the initial daily cap will be around 3,000 people a day moving in each direction.

After the trial, if conditions permit, the quota will be gradually increased,” Ao noted.

Ao further divulged that people traveling for emergency reasons, such as medical issues or funerals, will not be counted against the daily quota. Macau or Hong Kong residents seeking to visit the other SAR will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications will be largely handled online.

Case Concerns

Beijing was expected to issue Macau and Hong Kong authorization to begin quarantine-free travel between the regions this week or next. But the uptick of new COVID-19 cases in the Guangdong Province threatens that start. Guangdong borders Macau and Hong Kong.

There have been 10 new reported coronavirus cases in the province over the past week. That is seemingly a minuscule amount for a province with a population of more than 126 million people. But China’s “zero-COVID” policy has required draconian travel restrictions upon detection of even a handful of cases.

By comparison, the most recent seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, which is home to around 330 million people, was 146,554.

“I think China’s zero policy is completely unsustainable and ill-conceived for a virus that is obviously going to be endemic,” Edward Holmes, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Sydney, opined to Science magazine this week.