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Could China be planning two more years of COVID-zero? Experts outline impact on Macau

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) will be held next week amid speculation on whether Beijing might start to wind down its COVID-zero policy afterwards, however a recruitment notice issued in Shanghai this week seems to pour cold water on that idea.

On 10 October, a notice was posted in Shanghai’s Pudong New District, indicating the city would conduct an “open recruitment for a community epidemic prevention commissioner on a two-year contract.” It also promised to hire 575 specialist COVID prevention and control officers on two-year contracts.

This job announcement in Shanghai has been widely discussed on the mainland, with many economic commentators suggesting the stringent epidemic prevention policy in China will be maintained after the CPC and seemingly for at least another two years.

Regarding the possibility that the mainland’s policy will not be changed in the near future, Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat-seng, has repeatedly stressed in the past that Macau’s own policy must be consistent with that of mainland China.

“If the Mainland policy changes, Macau will definitely change it immediately,” he said.

In the face of the economic impact of China’s COVID-zero policy, Eilo Wing-Yat Yu, associate professor of the Department of Government and Public Administration of the University of Macau, told IAG that “the pandemic prevention policy, as I understand it now, has gone beyond public health and has reached the political level.

“At present, the mainland is using the pandemic prevention policy to achieve the effect of rectifying the social and political environment, without focusing too much on the economic impact.”

However, part of the fallout of this policy has been significant economic impact on Macau.

“Not only the Macau gaming industry, but also the overall economy of Macau has been affected,” Eilo said, “but this is the national policy. The economic damage of Macau is the cost of the COVID-zero policy.”

The President of the Macau Responsible Gaming Association, Song Wai Kit, believes easing the COVID-zero policy would be beneficial to Macau’s gaming industry but said there are greater issued at hand that even an easing of border and COVID-prevention rules cannot fix.

“The main problem facing Macau’s gaming industry is the amendment of the mainland’s criminal law and the strict control of capital,” Song said.

“Macau gaming is facing the problem of the transformation of gamblers into low quality and high quantity, which is a change from VIP to mass market gamblers. Even though the anti-epidemic policy has been changed and more tourists are coming to Macau, the quality of gamblers has also changed.”

However, Song believes that if mainland China and Macau maintain their isolation policy [for areas impacted by COVID], it will have an impact on visitors to Macau in the long-term.

“The real recovery will come when there are no more barriers to free entry and exit,” he said.


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