Macau is going to undergo a ‘gradual opening up’, as authorities realize they can no longer control the outbreak in the community and mainland Chinese policies shift towards a more open approach.

Speaking to media on Tuesday, Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture reversed the government’s previous tone on zero-COVID, marking a turning point for the SAR in its attempt to return to normal and give new light to the economy.

“At this moment, the community is going to face the outbreak, and we will have an increase in the number of cases in the city. We have to prepare ourselves for these positive cases to appear in the community,” stated Elsie Ao Ieong.

“It will be impossible for us to continue to shut ourselves in Macau, therefore we need to have a gradual opening up,” stated the official, in a positive tone after the SAR has been effectively shuttered from the outside world, with the exception of China, for nearly three years.

However, a tone of caution was given by the Secretary, noting “our future measures will not allow a large-scale outbreak and we hope that the citizens can understand the characteristics of this pandemic.”

The official justified the statements on a gradual weakening of the deadliness of the virus, noting that data show the majority of those infected with Omicron were asymptomatic, showing its virulence was decreasing.

“Later, we will launch information with explanations and illustrations of what types of symptoms that the infected individuals could have. We will teach the infected individuals how to handle the coronavirus and what the correct medication is,” stated the official.

Macau has been undergoing its most difficult wave of cases yet, with numbers likely topping 60 cases since the end of November.

The wave has been uncharacteristically defined by a lack of mass testing, as in previous minor outbreaks, and no mass closure of casinos, which slashed concessionaires’ revenues in previous quarters.

The overall shift in stance by the mainland Chinese authorities is also encouraging towards recommencing tour group travel to Macau, which had initially been set to recommence in November.

And the gradual opening up would help operators kick-start their attempts to draw new foreign visitors to the city, as outlined in their obligations under the new gaming concessions.

Currently, all entrants to Macau from areas deemed low-risk in China must supply a negative nucleic acid test result taken within 24 hours, as well as a rapid antigen test taken within six hours. They are required to take four nucleic acid tests daily in the five days after arrival, as well as five daily rapid antigen tests starting from the day after arrival.

Visitors from the neighboring province of Guangdong are subject to slightly reduced testing measures.