Hong Kong’s Covid-19 situation means travel bubble with Macau unlikely any time soon

  • Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed the arrangement with her counterpart in the casino hub, only to receive a lukewarm response
  • The city has a largely quarantine-free plan with mainland China and is promoting itself as a safe destination for Chinese visitors

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A man stands in front of the Ruins of Saint Paul's Cathedral in Macau. While the gambling hub is open to visitors from mainland China, it has reservations about forming a travel bubble with Macau. Photo: SCMP/Winson Wong

While mainland Chinese visitors have returned to Macau, the gambling hub isn’t keen on setting up a travel bubble with Hong Kong, not least because of concerns about importing Covid-19 from the city.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor floated the possibility of a “travel bubble” between the two special administrative regions on Wednesday, only to receive the cold shoulder.

The lukewarm response reflected significant changes in the regional mix of visitors to the casino city over the past two years, said Wu Wai-fong, chairwoman of the Macau Tourist Guide Association.

Mainland China is currently the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel bubble with Macau and for now, Wu said, the whole tourism industry is geared towards promoting the casino hub as a safe destination for mainlanders.

“Hong Kong will still be an important visitor source market, but you can’t have your cake and eat it,” she said, referring to worries in Macau about Covid-19 arriving with visitors from next door.

“The cost will be unbearable if any imported cases from Hong Kong prompt Chinese authorities to close our border with the mainland.”

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Since the Covid-19 outbreak in January last year, Macau has reported 49 cases with no deaths, while Hong Kong has seen four waves of infections, with 11,755 cases and 209 deaths. Macau has also not reported a local case in 400 days.

Hong Kong’s leader Lam told lawmakers on that she had discussed the possibility of a travel bubble with her Macau counterpart Ho Iat-sing, but did not provide details.

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Macau officials had said earlier last week that they had not started any discussions about travel bubbles with other regions.

Following Lam’s remarks, a spokesman for the Macau Government Tourism Office said that the authorities there would actively promote “safe travel” to attract mainland visitors and had “nothing to add” on the border arrangement with Hong Kong.

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