HK travel setback to hurt Macau travel easing: analysts

The Tuesday news that Hong Kong is extending to July 7 its deadline for the end of a 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals from Macau, mainland China and Taiwan is a “disappointment” for Macau and could set back by at least a month the latter’s efforts to get its tourism industry going again, said JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd in a note. The decision by the Hong Kong government amid new outbreaks of Covid-19 in that city.

“This is a disappointment for those waiting for a ‘Greater Bay Area travel bubble’ to kick in this month, including us,” wrote on Tuesday analysts DS Kim, Derek Choi and Jeremy An. They were referring latterly to a potential scheme to relax travel movement between the mainland’s Guangdong province,  Hong Kong and Macau.

“There is still a (very) small chance that Macau and Guangdong could go ahead first to open up borders with certain safeguarding measures (e.g., negative test results for Covid-19), but it’s probably reasonable to think a travel bubble will not happen until 7 July, as the Chinese government might prefer not to treat two SARs differently, in our view,” added the JP Morgan team.

The institution added: “We do think Macau is suffering ‘collateral damage,’ as it has been Covid-19 –free for 55 days.”

Macau has not had a Covid-19 case since early April. All 45 confirmed patients have been released from hospital care, and the city recorded no death from the disease.

Nonetheless travel between Macau and Hong Kong is still subject ordinarily to a 14-day quarantine period in each direction. Mainlanders entering Macau have no quarantine restrictions, but those wishing to return to the mainland after a visit to Macau are currently subject to a 14-day quarantine requirement.

There are also general restrictions in the issuance of visas by the Chinese authorities for mainlanders to travel to Macau and Hong Kong. Those that are permitted by mainland authorities to visit Macau must also be tested for Covid-19 before they can gain entry to the city.

The Hong Kong government said in a Tuesday press release: “The situation of Covid-19 outbreak in Hong Kong and the number of confirmed cases have slightly stabilised in the past month or so, but remain very volatile, with local cluster cases reported again recently.”

According to the city’s dedicated website on the latest situation regarding Covid-19, Hong Kong confirmed six new cases on Tuesday, taking the city’s total to 1,094. Of those, 1,038 have already been discharged from medical care, and 50 are currently hospitalised, two of them in critical condition. Hong Kong has had four deaths from the disease.

News of the 14-day quarantine being extended until July 7 was given by Sophia Chan Siu-chee, Secretary for Food and Health. The compulsory 14-day quarantine will also apply until September 18 for arrivals from overseas. The indefinite ban on non-residents flying into Hong Kong from abroad continues as well, said the government official.

Exemptions from the Hong Kong quarantine are possible for “persons whose travelling is necessary for purposes relating to manufacturing operations, [for] business activities or the provision of professional services in the interest of Hong Kong’s economic development,” said a Monday press release from the local government.

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