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MGTO director warns of danger in reinstating IVS too soon

The Director of the Macao Government Tourism Office, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, has warned that rushing to reinstate China’s Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) could inadvertently result in borders being locked down again.

The timeline for reinstating the IVS scheme, which accounted for around 48% of all Chinese visitors to Macau in 2019, has come further into focus since the easing of quarantine restrictions between Macau and Guangdong Province earlier this month, with Las Vegas Sands President and COO Rob Goldstein noting during the company’s 2Q20 earnings call that operators can expect little rebound until IVS returns.

Pressed on the issue while appearing as special guest speaker at an AustCham event at St Regis Macao this week, Senna Fernandes said it is vital authorities take a cautious approach to any further border openings.

“Obviously, even when it is reinstated, those people will still need to have a test done in order to come to Macau and go back without entering quarantine, but it is important to consider that there will also be an if. What I mean by that is if there are any COVID-19 cases reported in Macau – community cases, not imported cases – if any case is detected then [the government] will immediately suspend for 14 days the issuing of visas and the quarantine exemption.

“That’s why we have to be very careful in order to keep our city free of any community cases because any community case means the quarantine measures could be reimposed immediately. We have to avoid that situation from happening.”

Nevertheless, Senna Fernandes confirmed that Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, was actively discussing the resumption of IVS with mainland Chinese authorities.

And she rejected any suggestion the Macau government may be reluctant to open its borders until a vaccine becomes widely available.

“My understanding is we are working on gradually reopening the borders,” she said.

“At this point of time, as you can see, we are reopening the borders starting with Guangdong and if all goes well then we would be in a position to request for further opening. But it has to be step by step.

“I can say it is not true because we are already seeing border measures being relaxed. We’re not waiting for a vaccine.”

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