Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng today warned gaming operators that it is time to respond to the challenge with social responsibility, as authorities look for hotels to convert into quarantine centers.
“This is also a challenge for you”, underlined Ho Iat Seng, who launched an “appeal to the concessionaires to be considerate”, at a time when the authorities are under “great pressure” to find hotels in the face of the return of thousands to the territory, obliged to fulfill a 14-day quarantine.
With thousands of people in quarantine and almost 1,500 under medical isolation in designated hotels, the head of the Macau government explained that its administration “is disappointed” with the difficulty of finding establishments and stressed that operators and resorts “have to see how they should assume social responsibility ”.
Currently, eight hotels were designated to be used for medical isolation, namely, Grand Lapa, Pousada Marina Infante Hotel, Golden Crown China Hotel, Regency Art Hotel, Grand Coloane Resort, Metropole Hotel, Treasure Hotel, San Tung Fong Commercial Inn and South Wing.
“This has to be clear, [social responsibility] is not just advertising,” he said, recalling that “the Government pays for hotels”, a total cost that is still accounted for, but whose “invoice” will be made known at the end epidemic, he promised.
Current official figures point to a 95 per cent year-on-year drop in visitor numbers in February and casino revenues by around 90 per cent. The Macau government expects to lose half of the proceeds from gambling this year.
Ho Iat Seng stressed that the world is experiencing an “unprecedented calamity”, but that Macau has managed to contain the Covid-19 outbreak and that it will be able to overcome the crisis.
However, the Chief Executive admitted that the economic impact and the increase in unemployment “will be inevitable”, despite the measures already taken and announced by the authorities to support the population and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
In February, the Macau Government announced tax benefits for companies and the population, a line of soft loans for SMEs and social support measures to reduce the economic impact due to the coronavirus.
Exceptional measures include exemption or reduction of taxes, the opening of a line of loans with subsidized interest rates, the strengthening of social support, as well as the launch of electronic consumption vouchers.
The Government has decided to exempt residents from the payment of the urban property tax for housing units for the year 2019.
The population of Macau will also be exempt from paying electricity and water tariffs between March and May.
The Macau government had already announced the anticipation to April of the financial contribution of MOP10,000 and MOP6,000 for permanent and non-permanent residents, respectively.
On a social level, for the most deprived, there is a new allocation of health vouchers worth MOP600 and the allocation of two extra subsidies to households that already benefited from economic support.
The Government will also deliver electronic consumer vouchers for each resident of Macau worth MOP3,000.
As for companies, in addition to tax exemptions and reductions, they will be able to benefit from a package of subsidized or even interest-free credit lines, with extended terms for the respective payment.
SMEs that are excluded from these special plans can request support of MOP600,000, free of interest, being obliged to pay the debt in the following eight years.
Macau authorities announced on Monday another case of contagion from covid-19, bringing the number of infected people to 25 since the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
This was the 15th case detected by the authorities in just over a week, after Macau had been 40 days without identifying any infection.
Despite the new wave of cases, Ho Iat Seng said the situation was under control, noting that the new cases are all imported and that Macau has managed to avoid local contamination.
Today Ho also announced stricter entry restrictions involving Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as a way o to decrease the number of imported cases.
Macau recorded a first wave of ten cases in February, which have already been discharged. After detecting new cases, all imported, the authorities reinforced border control measures and restrictions.
The new coronavirus, responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic, has already infected more than 345,000 people worldwide, of whom more than 15,100 have died.
After appearing in China in December, the outbreak spread across the world, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a pandemic situation.
Several countries have adopted exceptional measures, including the quarantine regime and border closure.