China zero-Covid policy may persist to 2023: Macau scholar

China shows no sign of easing its “dynamic zero-Covid” policy regarding community management of Covid-19 infection risk, and it may persist into next year, with the potential for continued impact on Macau’s casino sector, said local gaming scholar Wang Changbin in comments to GGRAsia.

The term “dynamic” is understood to be an indication by the mainland authorities of the need for mass-testing and if necessary lockdowns, but on a rolling basis, depending on when and where outbreaks occur.

The country’s leader, President Xi Jinping, has several times made public announcements about the necessity and efficacy of the policy. Some investment analysts covering Macau gaming had surmised the policy might ease after the imminent staging in Beijing of the National Congress of the ruling Communist Party.

But Mr Wang, director of the Centre for Gaming and Tourism Studies at Macao Polytechnic University observed to GGRAsia: “With this policy continuing, Macau’s gaming and leisure industry will continue to suffer due to the uncertainties and disruptions to the travel plan of the tourists in mainland China,” amid the “related control measures.” He added the situation could persist into “next year”.

For three consecutive days this week up to and including Wednesday, People’s Daily, a leading state-run national newspaper, published editorial comment stressing the need to continue the policy as the best way of serving the social and economic needs of the country’s people.

A statistical update on Wednesday, from the country’s National Health Commission, confirmed that at least one community in each of China’s 31 provinces, autonomous regions and major cities, had confirmed incidence of Covid-19 infection.

The Wednesday commentary of People’s Daily mentioned that vaccination coverage on the mainland – especially among the elderly, children, and those specfically deemed unsuitable to receive Covid-19 jabs – did not currently provide sufficient “defence” against either infection, or the risk of severe infection.

To date, mainland China remains the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel arrangement with Macau. The Macau government has stated on several occasions that its Covid-19 prevention policy is in line with mainland China’s.

Macau saw a “slightly underwhelming” recovery in gaming revenue during this month’s Autumn Golden Week, with consumer confidence about leisure spending and travel possibly weakened by recent Covid-19 outbreaks on the mainland, suggested financial services firm Citigroup in a Monday memo.

A rise in mainland infection cases amid the holiday period coincided with weaknesses since Monday in stock prices across Macau’s six casino operators.

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