Whilst Macau’s government has shown incredible foresight in its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic to date, Alidad Tash, Managing Director of 2NT8 Limited believes the time is now ripe for policy changes, particularly when it comes to the administration of vaccines and Macau’s Zero-Covid policy.
The good news
“I still argue that Macau is the safest place in the world when it comes to handling Covid-19 medically,” said Tash.
Out of a population of 680,000, over the past 20 months, only 75 people have been infected with Covid-19, and Macau has registered no fatalities.
This can be attributed to the strict health measures that Macau’s government had put in place early on in the pandemic, including the barring of international tourists and workers (with the exception of Mainland China), tough quarantine and mask requirements, border restrictions and mandatory mass testing every time there is a potential large outbreak.
The bad news
However, where Macau’s population has benefitted – health and safety, its economy has suffered in turn.
“The saddest part about the economic victims (of Covid-19), is not the big bad casinos, which have deep pockets. It’s the small to medium enterprises that are going to fold because they don’t have the deep pockets and credit. They are going to go under.
“The effects of this economic devastation is something that Macau has to resolve and the only way to do that is to get enough vaccinations.”
Tash said he believes it is time for Macau to work towards shedding its “zero-covid” policy, like many countries have in recent months.
“The U.S. made a huge mistake when it sacrificed its lives for economic livelihood. But the reverse is just as bad.”
“We can’t be a society full of Covid-free people with no money in our pockets.”
“The only other region in the world sticking to its Zero-Covid policy is Mainland China, but China doesn’t rely on its visitors as much as Macau does. China is a producer, it’s the second-largest economy in the world… In Macau, pre-pandemic, 80 percent of the government’s money came from gaming taxes. That’s a tremendous amount and that is very scary.”
“Relying on just gaming makes it so Macau can not pursue Zero-Covid. It needs to open up,” comments Tash.
Macau’s rate of vaccinations have been slow – with only around 47.7 percent of the population fully vaccinated with both doses, according to World in Data as of October 3.
“Instead of asking its residents to ‘please get vaccinated’, it should offer carrots or sticks.”
“If you don’t get fully vaccinated, stay home. Don’t go to restaurants, parks, casinos, or cinemas. Perform your civic duty, or don’t be part of society. That’s the stick approach. An alternative is to tell citizens – we will pay you 10,000 Patacas a year, we ask you to play your part. That’s the carrot approach.”
When asked whether he supports mandatory vaccinations, however, Tash said he believes it should only apply to specific industries at the moment – such as healthcare workers and tourism/hospitality workers.
“For some people, yes. Anyone dealing with incoming travelers should be vaccinated. Let’s not make the same mistake that Hong Kong made earlier in the summer when one of its airport workers wasn’t vaccinated. As for the rest of the population, not until we see how the carrots and sticks approach will work.”
Macau this week began its third round of mandatory mass testing of residents as a result of three new covid cases discovered in the community.
Tash said “If the government puts as much effort into a vaccination drive as it did into the recent NAT efforts, we’d easily get our vaccination rates up to the 80% mark.”