Date published: May 6, 2021, 09: 15 hrs.
Last updated: May 6, 2021, 09: 39 h.
Hong Kong Governor Carrie Lam's recent proposal for a "travel bubble" between Macau and Hong Kong has set things in motion on the other side across the Pearl River Delta.
South China Morning Post reports that its counterpart in Macau has begun to rebound from the pandemic-induced collapse.
Macau has proved remarkably COVID - 19 is immune and wants to keep it that way. The gambling center reported a total of only a few dozen cases, all in the earliest stages of the pandemic. In fact, the enclave has been completely COVID - 19 - free for 400 days.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has experienced four waves of coronavirus , with 11,755 and 209 deaths. SAR recorded more than 120 cases a day at its peak last year.
Those numbers are tame compared to COVID's global hotspots. But from a regional perspective, cases in Hong Kong, population 7 million, have consistently outpaced the entire mainland of China, population 1.4 billion, for most of the past year - at least officially.
Return of visitors
After an initial period of self-isolation, Macao began receiving visitors from mainland China in September, mostly without quarantine restrictions. Visitors from Hong Kong are still subject to a mandatory 21-day quarantine.
Although billions have been spent on new infrastructure in recent years to bring the two special administrative regions together, it looks like it will stay that way for now.
The number of cases in Hong Kong has dwindled to single digits. But Macau officials said last week that there had been no talks about creating new travel bubbles with any other region.
There is also much to lose for the gambling hub, which now advertises itself as a safe tourist destination. Visitor numbers are down 85 percent in 2020. In March, they reached their highest level since before the pandemic, with 754, 541 arrivals.
Macau is also gaining travellers who might otherwise have gone to Hong Kong. Mainlanders have been deterred by the pandemic and civil unrest that has gripped the city.
Bulls in Macau
Analysts at UBS said on Thursday that gambling stocks represented a buying opportunity as they expected Macau's casino revenues to rise sharply following the full reopening of borders.
Until then, the market will continue to benefit from salary-high demand from mainland travellers.
"Ultimately it depends on the complete reopening of the border," said Angus Chan of UBS Global Research. "When and how the Macau-Hong Kong border reopens will also have an impact. These are more short-term volatilities. But our basic assumption is that Covid - 19 will eventually come through. "