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Tuesday, Jun 06, 2023

Transport services between Hong Kong and Macau to resume after eased curbs

Transport services between Hong Kong and Macau to resume after eased curbs

Macau has eased entry rules, despite several businesses with infected staff forced to close and residents lining up outside clinics.

Cross-border transport operators are set to resume services between Hong Kong and Macau after the casino hub relaxed its Covid-19 entry rules, but some have questioned the timing of the reopening as the former Portuguese colony has been grappling with rising infections.

Macau’s eased rules for arrivals took effect on Friday, despite the surge in cases forcing businesses with infected staff to temporarily close and residents to line up outside clinics to seek treatment. Shelves at several shops selling medicine and fresh food have also been emptied.

Legislator Ron Lam U-tou said: “I think the timing is really bad, it’s not that everyone doesn’t want to accept opening up. Why is our reopening such a mess? Where we are lying flat or even lying down [in our prevention measures], despite us standing guard over the past three years”

“Lying flat” is term made popular by the younger generation in mainland China, denoting disengagement or “doing nothing”.

Some stores selling fresh food are running low on stock in Macau.

The city on Thursday announced it would relax its travel restrictions, allowing people arriving from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other places to enter with a negative polymerase chain reaction test taken within three days.

The city dropped a requirement for visitors to take a nucleic acid test on arrival, a red health code given to travellers limiting their citywide movement and a follow-up Covid-19 test three days after entering.

Overseas travellers will now be given a yellow health code instead, under which venue operators will decide whether they are allowed to enter their premises. But arrivals will still be required to conduct rapid antigen tests (RAT) for five days after coming to the city, with their health code turning green after the final day of screening.

Macau on Friday said 32 patients had entered quarantine facilities and one infected person died.

Hong Kong transport operators have started preparations for the resumption of services to the city, with others stepping up their capacity to cater to increasing demand.

Despite the long-awaited easing of measures, Macau residents have expressed mixed feelings about the move. One resident said she had no plans to travel to Hong Kong to see her siblings or parents in the near future given the casino hub’s rising infections.
Residents have been largely keeping off the streets as cases rise outside.

“The government has stopped announcing the daily caseload because there might be countless [cases]. Authorities are now mainly disclosing the number of people who need to stay in the government’s quarantine camps,” she said.

“There are also many shops that are closed because [employees are infected] and cannot work.”

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Ao Ieong U said the government had estimated that about a sixth of the population had been infected with Covid-19, but the medical system had not yet reached a point of “explosion”.

But Ava Chan, a 39-year-old homemaker, was upbeat over the relaxations, calling it “really great news”. She noted that many residents had a close connection with Hong Kong and they had been looking forward to the eased curbs for the past three years.

However, Chan warned potential tourists against visiting the city, saying many in the hospitality industry were infected with the virus.

“There are not enough people [to serve you] at a restaurant. They can’t even serve the local people,” she said.

Despite the uncertainty, Hong Kong transport operators providing services to Macau were preparing for higher demand. The Hong Kong-Macau Express coach bus service on Friday said it would resume service on Saturday, with four buses running from several casinos in Macau to Prince Edward in Hong Kong from 8am to 2pm, and heading in the opposite direction from 10.50am to 4.50pm.

The high-speed ferry service between Hong Kong and Macau is also preparing for a resumption. A spokesman for Shun Tak- China Travel Ship Management, which runs the TurboJet ferry service, said the company was “happy to see the government improving quarantine measures”.

Transport operators are resuming services between the two cities.

The ferry service between Hong Kong’s international airport and the Taipa Ferry Terminal is also set to return on December 30, according to an announcement by authorities.

Earlier this month, the shuttle bus service on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge was increased to 10 trips from Hong Kong to Macau, and nine the other way.

Hong Kong Tourism sector lawmaker Perry Yiu Pak-leung said it was good that Macau was now welcoming travellers.

“Before Covid, Macau was a popular travel destination for Hong Kong residents, and many stayed in the city for one night during the weekends,” he said. “About 1 million people travelled from Macau to Hong Kong each year, and about 7 million visitors travelled from Hong Kong to Macau per year.”

Yiu said Macau’s reopening would help make both cities more attractive to tourists.

“The charm of Hong Kong as a single destination is limited. But as twins, travellers can come to Hong Kong for its theme parks and cultural hub, followed by Macau’s food, casinos and World Heritage sites. The two former colonies can create great synergy,” he said.

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