Travel bubble has limited buoyancy, says expert

The plan for the Hong Kong-Macau travel bubble has come crashing down again, after the neighboring city detected a locally transmitted case on June 23, bringing a harsh end to its 16-day record of zero local cases.
The incident once again offers convincing evidence that “until such time as both Hong Kong and Macau have sufficiently high rates of vaccination, any travel bubble would be unlikely to be stable,” said Ben Lee, managing partner of IGamiX Management & Consulting.
The emergence of the first locally transmitted case in Hong Kong indicates that the Hong Kong-Macau travel bubble scheme will again return to square one.
Aspiring intercity travellers, businesspeople and family members are left with no choice but to wait for another 28 days — again — for Hong Kong to record no local cases.
In an interview with the Times yesterday, Lee said: “We expect that [only when] all sides achieve the desired herd immunity will the authorities then relax cross border travel.”
As of 4 p.m. yesterday, Macau has administered a total of 311,919 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. There are 220,215 people in Macau who are inoculated, 127,176 of whom have received their first shots, while another 93,039 are fully vaccinated.The numbers are still a long way from those necessary for Macau to secure herd immunity, when stacked against the city’s total population of 682,500.
The Macau government also stated clearly yesterday at the Covid-19 media briefing that the absence of local cases in Hong Kong for 28 consecutive days remains the basic precondition for the two cities to resume quarantine-free travel.The delayed Hong Kong-Macau travel bubble has prompted Lee to lower the expectation for Macau’s gaming and tourism performance during the coming peak season, the summer holiday.“
The minute local cases are reported, the gate may come down again, leaving people either stranded or requiring quarantine retrospectively [even after the border reopens with Hong Kong],” he suggested.
“We don’t expect much from the coming summer holidays given the above uncertainties,” he said, adding that “bureaucratic yo-yoings” also complicate the situation.
Before Hong Kong reported the first local case, JP Morgan already scaled down its gross gaming revenue (GGR) forecast for the third and fourth quarters of this year to 43% and 58% of pre-pandemic levels, vis-à-vis the earlier prediction of 50% and 66% respectively.

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