Special Report – Not so well-oiled Bay Area

The Greater Bay Area’s co-management of the pandemic brought to the surface coordination shortcomings. Politics of disjuncture were noticeable between the two SARs.

MB January 2021 Special Report | The COVID-19 year

The first time that the expression Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA) appeared in Chinese documents to describe the great megalopolis that brings together 9 cities in the province of Guangdong to the two special administrative regions was in late 2016. Much ink has been spilled about the GBA development plan in recent years. 

Four years have now passed, and Macau-based researchers Dennis Zuev and Kevin Hannam wrote a paper (Anxious immobilities: an ethnography of coping with contagion Covid-19 in Macau) in which they “show how the Greater Bay Area plan became disrupted through re-bordering processes and a failure to coordinate and unite against one common adversary.”

The authors emphasized, “We can see a politics of disjuncture between the governments of the Greater Bay Area, which was previously initiated as a project of political togetherness and de-bordering.”

The authors argue that the pandemic situation has brought up old rivalries between several cities in the Great Bay Area, showing that there is much work to be done prior to talking about a regional integration project.

On the one hand is the Central Government; on the other, each of the SARs, with its autonomy at the border level. The capacity for intervention by the Guangdong province itself must also not be ruled out.

A case in point was the apparent lack of coordination between the two SARs.

Ho Iat Seng said in October that only after China considers Hong Kong as a safe destination will Macau open doors to the neighbouring region, easing the circulation restrictions imposed following the COVID-19 pandemic. “As soon as the country considers that Hong Kong is of low risk, we will then follow the strategies,” said the Chief Executive. Mr Ho later detailed, “We really want to welcome back [arrivals from] Hong Kong, which is just one bridge away, but their situation poses risk to us. If we resume travel ties with them now, how are we to deal with mainland China?”

Meanwhile, and even though the project has already suffered several delays, Hong Kong had already agreed with Singapore to implement a ‘travel bubble’, allowing travel between both cities without quarantine, initiating one or two flights a day. Anyone who has stayed 14 days in either city, regardless of age and nationality, will be eligible to travel freely. Until now, Macau and Hong Kong have been unable to initiate a similar travel bubble with each other.

“The Greater Bay Area plan became disrupted through re-bordering processes and failed to coordinate and unite against one common adversary” – Zuev and Hannam

Over the last months, the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge is the only way to connect to Hong Kong, as the maritime routes between the two regions have been suspended since February. Macau demands not only a negative COVID-19 test from Hong Kong, but 14 days of quarantine compliance; with the former British colony imposing similar measures on those arriving from Macau.

The Macau Health Code and the Guangdong Health Code have been mutually recognised since May, so that those travelling between Macau and Guangdong can switch their nucleic acid test (NAT) certificate between the two health code systems, but this is an exception.

As with the Macau Health Code and the health codes of all the other provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the mainland are not currently mutually recognised. Those travelling from Macau to any of those areas, and vice versa, have to present a paper NAT certificate when passing through the immigration.

Last July, Macau and Hong Kong paused negotiations over the mutual recognition of their respective health code systems.

(Xinhua/Fan Peishen)


“Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has made contributions to the treatment of COVID-19 because of its efficacy and comprehensive therapeutic theory,” state four researchers from Macau University of Science and Technology.

The team led by Wan-Ying Wang also conclude that “In China, TCM is concurrently playing an important role in the treatment of COVID-19, integrated with modern imaging system, first-aid facility and ordinary chemical therapy.”

“The national percentage of treating confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients with TCM-integrated therapy is over 90 per cent with the support from over 4900 TCM practitioners all over China,” read the paper Contribution of traditional Chinese medicine to the treatment of COVID-19.Macau

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