Ever since a series of more stringent anti-pandemic measures came into force this week, Macau’s cross-border casino employees have been subjected to great physical and financial pressures, Cloee Chao, president of the New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association, told the Times yesterday.
“The new measures mean that they have to undertake Covid-19 testing every two days. We gauged that it is going to cost each cross-border staff [member] around MOP1,000 monthly, just for conducting the test,” Chao said.
Considering the continuing wave of Covid-19 cases in Guangdong (GD) Province, on June 8 the Macau SAR government shortened the validity period for negative SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results from seven to two days, for those entering Macau from the region.
This move — widely considered to be harsh, but necessary — is intended to minimize the risk of coronavirus permeating into Macau from nearby regions.
Casino staff who must commute daily between Macau and mainland China not only endure the financial burden of the tests, but also the physical and mental stress of arranging tests during their free time every two days, she said.
“It is particularly hard for the casino staff, as they have to rotate rosters at close intervals,” she added.
What surprised Chao more was that she was told by her counterparts that several casino operators compel staff to commute through the Hengqin Border Checkpoint, or else face disciplinary action.
“It entails an irksome detour for staff to commute through the Hengqin Border Checkpoint, instead of the Barrier Gate. This forces them to spend at least 1.5 hours more just for the inbound trip into Macau from Zhuhai.”
It is estimated that more than 10,000 cross-border Macau casino workers are residing in Zhuhai, she said.
Chao urged Macau’s gaming operators to make good use of their resources to assist staff at this difficult time. “The gaming operators should allow the staff to conduct the Covid-19 test in their own testing stations.”
She also suggests gaming conglomerates offer temporary accommodation as an interim solution to help alleviate the pressures.
Strict pandemic measures damaging GGR
The new measures against Covid-19 have undermined casino visitation, Cloee Chao observed.
“It is very obvious that there [have been many] fewer patrons in casinos since yesterday (June 8),” she said.
The most significant factor discouraging mainland bettors is the ongoing pandemic in Guangdong (GD) Province, rather than Covid-19 testing requirements, Chao speculated.
However, she remains sanguine about the prospects for the Macau gaming sector. She has faith that the central government will soon contain the pandemic.
Guangdong has long been an integral market for Macau. Since the start of the year, it contributed around 61% of all mainland visitors who had traveled to Macau, JP Morgan said in a statement on June 7.
On top of that, “it also serves as a gateway to other provinces because over 90% of mainlanders entered Macau via Zhuhai, using high-speed rail or GZ/ZH airports, while direct air-travelers comprise only 6% of visitation,” the brokerage said.
“Therefore, tighter immigration policy from or via GD [Province] will undoubtedly weigh on demand, putting a break in the respectable sequential recovery over the past six months,” it added.
According to the latest data provided by the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China, there were eight locally transmitted cases reported on June 8 in mainland China — all originating in GD Province.