Macau says no dice to quarantine-free deal with Hong Kong

Top News | Wallis Wang 15 Apr 2021

Hong Kong must have zero Covid-19 cases for 14 consecutive days before quarantine-free travel can resume between the two SARs, says Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng.

Ho admitted the lack of Hong Kong tourists - are more "enthusiastic" in buying than mainland visitors - has affected souvenir businesses in Macau.

Macau appeared to stand firm in its requirements for reopening the border despite Hong Kong's continued push to relax controls.

"We have always been in close contact with the Hong Kong government, hoping to develop a mechanism to reduce the inconvenience in cross-border travel when Hong Kong can maintain zero infections," Ho said.

"We don't require a lot, but the infections must be maintained at zero for at least 14 days for us to take the next step."

Macau has had no cases for 380 days, he said, stressing the government must put their people's health and safety first.

But Ho admitted that the souvenir business remains affected even after travel between Macau and the mainland has resumed.

"The souvenir business could not recover even if more mainland tourists come because they do not have a habit of buying souvenirs," Ho said. "People who usually buy souvenirs are our Hong Kong friends, so Hong Kong is very important to us."

The Hong Kong government has also been discussing reopening the border with the mainland.

But Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said a "distance" remains between the current situation and resuming cross-border travel without quarantine to the mainland.

He said the mainland has done a very good job in controlling the pandemic so it is reasonable that Chinese authorities would be more careful when considering reopening the border.

Yau said the number of unknown-source cases has now come down to single digits. Hong Kong has also expanded the "Return2hk" scheme, which allows Hongkongers in Guangdong to return without quarantine and mainlanders to visit without being quarantined.

But mainland and Macau authorities have yet to shorten the quarantine period for Hongkongers.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong recorded five new cases yesterday - one local and four imported cases from Pakistan, Egypt and India. That took the tally to 11,613 cases with 208 deaths. No unknown-source cases were recorded.

The local case involved a 70-year-old man who had passed away. The man lived on the 22nd floor of Oi Fai House Block 3 at Yau Oi Estate in Tuen Mun.

He developed symptoms on March 31 and died at home on April 8.

The sample collected from his body at Fu Shan Public Mortuary yesterday tested positive.

A total of eight cases have been found in Oi Fai House so far, with three households on the 22nd floor involved.

Health authorities on Tuesday ordered all residents living on the same floor to undergo quarantine. Asymptomatic residents were sent to a quarantine center, while those with symptoms were sent to hospital.

Residents were seen leaving the building around 10pm Tuesday night. But some complained they were not informed about the quarantine order until 7pm.

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