Macau Reopening to Entire World, as Chinese Casino Enclave Drops Pandemic Protocols

Macau will drop nearly all of its COVID-19 pandemic protocols as they relate to entry procedures this Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

Macau restrictions COVID-19 entry border China
Macau restrictions COVID-19 entry border China
Macau’s “Frontier Post of the Border Gate.” On Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, Macau will reopen to the entire world more than three years after restricting its borders because of COVID-19. (Image: Shutterstock)

After more than three years of entry restrictions, Macau is ceasing COVID-19 testing, quarantine, and observation mandates for most arrivals.

Beginning Sunday, mainlanders, Hongkongers, and people from Taiwan will be fully free to come and go to the casino hub without needing to test before, or any time after, they enter. As a result, government-ordered quarantines and isolations are no more.

The transition period will end after Jan. 8 and COVID-19 will become an endemic disease,” said Elsie Ao Ieong, Macau’s secretary for social affairs and culture.

The withdrawal of testing and quarantines returns Macau to its 2019 border situation for mainlanders, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

The entry easing is expected to return meaningful visitor traffic to the region. The border procedures are also of utmost importance for migrant Chinese workers who work in Macau but live in neighboring areas in the Pearl River Delta.

Testing Remains for Foreigners

Macau’s easing of its entry rules follows Beijing this week saying people coming to the mainland from the casino destination no longer must test for the coronavirus. That adjustment also goes into effect on Sunday.

While Macau is reopening its borders to the entire world, the enclave will continue to require proof of a negative test for visitors arriving from anywhere other than mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Macau says international travelers must undergo a rapid antigen test within the previous 48 hours of boarding their flight for China/Macau.

Declaration of health statuses, which have previously entailed travelers completing online forms through a mobile health code application asserting that they haven’t had any recent known contact with an infected person, have also been dropped. The region’s easing of its pandemic processes also allows Macau International Airport to recommence transfer and layover services.

Virus Rages On

Macau’s easing of its border rules was made possible by China President Xi Jinping’s decision last month to end “zero-COVID.” The pandemic response policy kept normal life on hold in the country for more than three years with rolling lockdowns, business suspensions, and travel halts.

Mainland protests regarding Xi’s ongoing “zero-COVID” likely prompted his change of thinking. But Xi didn’t admit defeat, of course, but instead said his reverse of course only came after his top medical advisor — Zhong Nanshan — said COVID-19’s omicron variant doesn’t present more severe complications than that of the common flu.

Macau Health Bureau Director Alvis Lo made another bold comment this week when he said someone who has been recently infected with COVID-19 cannot become reinfected for a minimum of three to six months. Lo added that an estimated 60% to 70% of the resident population in Macau has already been infected since Beijing’s lifting of “zero-COVID.”

Xi largely scrapped his controversial pandemic policy in early December. International health experts estimate that more than a quarter of a billion people were infected with the coronavirus in China between Dec. 1 and Dec. 20.

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