Macau Vaccination Rate Hits 80 Percent, But Zero COVID-19 Policy Remains

Posted on: March 10, 2022, 11:09h. 

Last updated on: March 11, 2022, 10:12h.

Macau health officials say the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) has hit a major COVID-19 vaccination milestone, with 80% of the enclave population now fully inoculated against the coronavirus.

Macau casino China COVID-19 vaccination Hong Kong
MGM China casino employees at MGM Cotai work a light shift in February of 2022. Macau casino workers haven’t exactly been overwhelmed with business since the onset of the pandemic. (Image: Getty)

Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center announced yesterday that more than eight in 10 residents have received the needed number of government-approved COVID-19 vaccine doses to be considered fully vaccinated. Enclave health officials say the achievement presents a “solid basis for the creation of an immunological barrier in Macau.”

Despite being located adjacent to mainland China, where the coronavirus is thought to have originated, Macau has confirmed only 82 COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic’s duration. The region has not confirmed any deaths as a result of the coronavirus.

Health officials say there are three active cases in the region.

Zero COVID Policy

Macau has adhered to China’s zero COVID-19 policy, which requires a strict and immediate response to even a handful of new positive coronavirus cases. In Macau, the SAR has routinely limited entry to nonessential travelers when COVID-19 clusters have arisen.

The policy has been oppressive on Macau’s six casino operators that continue to operate at greatly reduced business levels compared with 2019. While gaming is booming in Las Vegas and other major gaming markets where COVID-19 restrictions have largely been lifted, Macau casinos are losing millions of dollars each month. They do so by keeping their massive resorts open and workforces on the payroll.

Gross gaming revenue across Macau last year totaled $10.8 billion. The casinos won $36.4 billion in 2019.

Macau has long teased that it would do away with the zero COVID policy once an 80% vaccination threshold was reached. But with the milestone now hit, there hasn’t been any word from the local government regarding that actually happening.

The mainland eclipsed the 80% vaccination breakthrough in December. China says approximately 1.2 billion residents are inoculated against COVID-19.

However, there’s been much vaccine resistance among the elderly, which most health experts agree are the most vulnerable to developing severe illness from the coronavirus. China’s National Health Commission says vaccination rates for people aged 80 and older are only around 40%.

Hong Kong Worries

The COVID-19 picture in Hong Kong, China’s other SAR, is much different than in Macau. Considerable vaccine hesitancy in Hong Kong — which has a strained relationship with the mainland, where China’s COVID vaccines were developed — led to Hong Kong being unprepared for the area’s most recent coronavirus surge.

Hong Kong currently has the highest COVID-19 death rate in the entire world, according to Oxford University’s “Our World in Data” COVID-19 tracker. Over the past week, Hong Kong has reported a COVID-19 death rate of 25.5 per one million people. That is five times higher than that of the US.

We simply did not do enough to protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Karen Grépin, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, told The Wall Street Journal.

While Macau has not cited a single COVID-19 death, Hong Kong has reported 1,341 deaths as a result of the virus. Hong Kong health officials say more than 91% of those who died were not vaccinated.