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Extension of Hong Kong border restrictions spells bad news for Macau’s gaming operators

港珠澳大桥-粤港界

Hopes that Macau’s borders with neighboring Guangdong Province and Hong Kong might be opened as early as next week were dashed on Tuesday when Hong Kong announced an extension to its current border control policies until 7 July.

In what comes as another blow for Macau’s struggling gaming and tourism operators, Hong Kong will require arrivals from Macau, Taiwan and mainland China to enter 14-day quarantine until at least 7 July, while the quarantine restrictions will apply to all other foreign arrivals until 7 September. Social distancing restrictions in Hong Kong have also been extended for two more weeks until 18 June.

It is yet to be seen what the news means for any potential easing of restrictions of the borders between Macau and Guangdong province.

Hong Kong’s Health Secretary, Sophia Chan Siu-chee, claimed that Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong Province are continuing to communicate about mutual recognition of quarantine policies and virus test techniques once the COVID-19 pandemic is “under control” in the three regions.

However, while Hong Kong recorded six new cases of community transmission in the past week – ending a two-week run with no new cases – Macau, Zhuhai and Shenzhen have been clear for some months now. Hong Kong is also working on setting up its own health code system, which Macau and Guangdong have had in place since April.

Nevertheless, it is possible the situation in Hong Kong might delay the entire process of easing border restrictions in the Greater Bay Area.

Macau officials are still refusing to provide any practical schedule on the easing of border controls with Guangdong Province, with officials of all three jurisdictions sticking to the same line: border policies require the negotiation and coordination of all three governments, which means opening the border between Macau and Guangdong Province while Hong Kong remains closed won’t be easy.

One possibility is that Macau and Zhuhai might expand the range of groups allowed to cross the border freely, pending negative virus tests for all, with those returning to the mainland from Macau potentially having to remain in Zhuhai for 14 days before travelling to other parts of China.

A more pessimistic possibility is that the entire GBA holds on until the pandemic is truly under control in Hong Kong, meaning a long and anxious wait for operators in Macau currently bleeding money by the day.

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