Macau Will Offer COVID-19 Vaccine Free to Residents

Posted on: December 9, 2020, 10:12h. 

Last updated on: December 9, 2020, 01:25h.

Macau residents will have free access to a COVID-19 vaccine once adequate doses become available in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR).

Macau casino vaccine China COVID-19
China began giving COVID-19 vaccines to volunteers in October. When a proven vaccine arrives in Macau, the government will offer it free to residents. (Image: EPA)

The Macau Health Bureau says that while participation is voluntary, the enclave government will strongly encourage locals to become vaccinated. The health agency says it will only provide vaccinations to the public once the coronavirus vaccines arrive and have been independently verified to be safe and effective.

The pandemic has devastated Macau’s economy, which is highly dependent on its casinos. Gross gaming revenue (GGR) from January through November is down 80.5 percent. The region’s six licensed casino operators have won $27.2 billion fewer gaming dollars in 2020 than they had at this time last year.

Despite neighboring China’s mainland, Macau as a SAR with its own borders has allowed it to successfully keep COVID-19 out. To date, the enclave has confirmed only 46 cases, and all patients have fully recovered.

Macau did not disclose where it plans to acquire its COVID-19 vaccines. Trials of a China-backed COVID-19 vaccine conducted in the United Arab Emirates concluded this week that the vaccine is 86 percent effective.

China President Xi Jinping has urged medical researchers to quickly develop a coronavirus vaccine for “global public good” and repair the country’s reputation for its role in the pandemic.

Vaccine Vital to Economic Recovery

Though COVID-19 hasn’t resulted in any deaths in Macau, the coronavirus has severely damaged the region’s economic lifeline. The number of visitor arrivals has declined more than 86 percent through the first 10 months of 2020. The hotel occupancy rate is down 66 percent, with less than 25 percent of guestrooms being occupied.

With the vaccine not expected to arrive in Macau until sometime in 2021, the typically busy New Year’s festivities will be muted. The gaming hub typically attracts 30,000 onlookers who pack the shoreline of the Macau Peninsula and Taipa to watch the enclave’s impressive fireworks display light up the night sky. Macau has called off its New Year’s Eve fireworks event.

SAR government officials have additionally warned private companies and casinos that if they hold New Year’s events, they must follow health safety guidelines, which include requiring participants to receive a negative COVID-19 test result.

35M Fewer Guests

The Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) announced today that the enclave expects total visitor numbers this year to be around five million when the 2020 nightmare is said and done.

It was a very difficult year, MGTP Director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes acknowledged.

January was a very good month, with three million visitors. But the remaining 11 months won’t even match that amount,” she said.

Fernandes’ comments were made at the Global Tourism Economy Forum, a virtual event broadcast from Macau. In 2019, Macau visitor numbers totaled approximately 40 million.