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China authorises tourist visas, Zhuhai is ‘test’ city

China on Monday authorised the issuance of tourist visas to enter Macau, a measure considered essential to revitalise the gambling industry in the casino capital of the world, with Zhuhai being the test city, said the secretary for social affairs and culture, Ieong U.

The issuance of the new tourist visas, both individual and group, will be resumed from this Wednesday and will only cover for the time being the neighbouring Zhuhai, in Guangdong province, with visitors exempted from the 14-day quarantine provided they have not been abroad in the previous two weeks and carry out a negative Covid-19 screening test, said Ieong U.

In a press conference, the ruler said that the aim is to get Beijing to extend the issuance of visas beyond Zhuhai, but for that Macau must successfully maintain control of the pandemic in the territory, which has no active case and has not yet recorded any community transmission of the new coronavirus.

Under the same conditions, from this Wednesday onwards, Macau residents can also enter the whole of China, excluding those who have a foreign passport.

Already in April, the head of the Macau government had announced his intention to ask Beijing to resume issuing individual visas, suspended due to the pandemic, which is seen by experts as crucial for the recovery of the gambling sector, the engine of the territory’s economy, highly dependent on the Chinese tourism market.

Macau’s economy has suffered an unprecedented downturn in both casino operations and visitor entry since late January, when the first wave of Covid-19 cases detected in the territory occurred.

Of the hundreds of millions of euros in gaming profits, Macau operators are now announcing losses on operations that include integrated resorts, largely because of the border restrictions imposed.

In 2019 Macau had almost 40 million visitors. In May alone, the number of visitors from inland China, the territory’s largest tourist market, fell by 99.4% annually.

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