Macau’s Tourism Crisis Management Office (GGCT) has received five calls requesting assistance from local residents in South Korea, the government disclosed yesterday.
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), which oversees the GGCT, informed during yesterday’s daily press briefing that the government has sent some 425 text messages to Macau residents currently in South Korea to remind them not to return to Macau via Hong Kong.
Fernandes told the press briefing that the tourism regulator had asked all four telecom companies in Macau to deliver the messages to local cellphone users.
She explained that the inbound calls to GGCT concerned the manner in which the Macau residents should return to the SAR. Fernandes stressed that their return trip was not imminent.
Currently, all flights between Macau and the northeast Asian country have been canceled at least until March 1. Concurrently on Monday evening, the Hong Kong government announced a ban on the entry of anyone from South Korea who is not a Hong Kong resident.
With all ferry services between the two Special Administrative Regions suspended, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is the only way local residents can return to the Macau SAR directly from Hong Kong.
En-route back to Macau from the Hong Kong airport, Macau residents must clear immigration control in Hong Kong, which is currently impossible coming from South Korea unless they also hold a Hong Kong identification card simultaneously.
Accordingly, Macau residents currently in South Korea will not be able to return to Macau via the neighboring SAR.
According to Fernandes, the five calls received by the GGCT concerned this matter. She told the press conference yesterday that her team advised the callers to use other means, mainly by transiting in other cities, to return to Macau.
“For the time being, we are sure that flights are still running from South Korea to Guangzhou and Shenzhen,” said the MGTO head. “Otherwise, they can make a transit stop in Japan or other places.”
Asked by the media about whether the 425 messages indicated that the same number of residents are currently in South Korea, Fernandes said, “the number doesn’t mean that there are 425 Macau residents in the country. It is the quantity of mobile devices connected to a Korean mobile network [as recorded by local telecom companies].” Fernandes added that her team cannot determine how many device one person possesses, therefore MGTO temporarily has no data as to how many Macau residents are in the northeast Asian country.
Fernandes was also asked to foresee if there is a need to postpone or even cancel other events in Macau. About a month ago, the MGTO decided to cancel several events originally held in celebration of Lunar New Year, including the annual float parade and the Lunar New Year fireworks display.
A tourism forum, originally due to be held in April, is very likely to be postponed to September. On the other hand, the Fireworks Contest may also be outright canceled. The last time the event was canceled was about two years ago, after destructive typhoon Hato struck Macau, claiming 10 lives.
“First of all, among our regular contestants, there is Japan, Korea, Italy and the mainland. They are all currently strongly affected by the epidemic,” said Fernandes. “On the other hand, even if they decided to go ahead, they still need time to source the fireworks required by their designs. The current situation may make it unfeasible.”
In the meantime, the director also disclosed that occupancy rate of short-term accommodation in the city had fallen to just 11%. Unusually for Macau, economic accommodation has proved more popular than luxury accommodation.
“The current situation is even worse than the SARS-affected period in 2003,” Fernandes said. “It is the worst time since I started working in the industry.”
Three patients still in hospital
Another recovered coronavirus patient was released from the public hospital yesterday bringing the number of cured people up to seven. The patient, a 67-year-old woman from Wuhan, has already returned to the mainland. The city has recorded 10 confirmed cases of the coronavirus to date, and no new infection in three weeks. The three people who have yet to be discharged from the hospital are in a stable condition, according to the health authorities.