Macau’s costly two-week Covid-19 lockdown holds a lesson for Hong Kong
- It has taken Macau numerous rounds of mass testing and weeks of lockdown to bring the latest outbreak under control
- In Hong Kong, we have to wonder if we can continue to afford stringent pandemic controls when even Beijing has indicated it is adjusting its measures
It’s also important to remember that, before late June, Macau had managed to keep total cases below 100 for more than two years – an incredible feat.
However, Macau suddenly moved the goalposts and said it would require Hong Kong to achieve 28 days of zero infections. From that point on, it has been clear that the two special administrative regions are on two distinct paths.
While Hong Kong continues to seek border reopening with the mainland, we have learned that we are in a special purgatory reserved for an international city in China, struggling between belonging to a zero-Covid country and staying connected to the rest of the pandemic-ravaged world.
Macau’s priority has always been to remain open to the mainland. Reopening casino doors, however, doesn’t mean visitors will come back. The stakes were high in Macau’s recent lockdown. The city’s economy had contracted by 54 per cent in 2020, and it had yet to recover fully before it was disrupted again this summer.
Analysts have been sounding the alarm for months, in fact. Back in April, the International Monetary Fund pointed out Macau’s vulnerability to resurgences of Covid-19.
How many rounds of testing and weeks of lockdown could this city of 7 million bear? At this point, if we are to maintain our status as an international financial centre, we need to manage not only the pandemic but also our containment measures: for example, make our quarantine requirements less stringent.
The pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on China’s economic health and the world’s second-largest economy does need to recalibrate its pandemic measures and mitigate the damage.
Both cities top the world’s vaccination rates, so residents have done their part. It’s up to our governments to put us on the right path in a world that will not be Covid-19-free.
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA