Special Report – The COVID-19 year

“It’s the economy…”

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. We just don’t know how much yet.

MB January 2021 Special Report | The COVID-19 year

The Macau SAR coped with this unprecedented public health crisis with remarkable success. 

However, the city’s economy is expected to have shrunk by at least half.

In Macau, too, there will be nothing like before, even if tourists start filling the streets and casinos from the second quarter of 2021 onwards.

The next generations will not forgive us if we have not learned the lesson and if we do not take advantage of the collective scare to change the economic model, which – based on the only existing industry – paralyzed the Region during 2020 and generated the greatest economic crisis in memory – we had to go back to the end of the 19th century to find similarities.

Even so, there is a substantial difference: Macau is today a very rich city, with large budget surpluses, which have made it possible to compensate for many of the economic and social problems.

In 1992 one of Bill Clinton’s leading campaign strategists invented the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid”.

Stupid is what we all will be if we don’t learn from mistakes and adjust the current economic model.

Over the next few pages, readers will find the most complete coverage of what happened this year, looking at the past, present and future.

Co-ordinated by João Paulo Meneses

[email protected]

Two weeks in February  

In 2017, super-typhoon Hato swept though the city in a way that it prompted a debate about whether the casinos should have closed or not. Now the pandemic led to an unprecedented two-week blanket closure. It’s all new and all different with Covid-19. Also, it’s new for casinos and their gamblers.         

The “dramatic collapse” of visitation

Are days of mass tourism behind us? Visitation remains a far cry from the pre-COVID 19 period. Experts point to a new normal for the city’s core business.

The main measures

There is a great deal of unanimity around the way the Macau Government has managed this first year of the pandemic.


Throughout this year, Macau received several praises from others, and several scientific articles cite MSAR as a reference. We added several of these compliments along with the few criticisms that were heard.

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.

Mental health impact could be “pervasive and prolonged”

When the pandemic passes and everything goes back to ‘normal’, mental damage will remain, experts warn.

The deepest contraction

Many felt in the past that Macau had an excess of financial reserves and that it was destined to keep on piling up budget surpluses, without other objectives. In the end, the rainy-day fund came to the rescue in 2020. How will 2021 be?

Very popular

Surveys show stronger adherence to some COVID-19 precautionary measures like face mask wearing (96.4 per cent) but not others, such as social distancing (42.3 per cent).

From bubonic plague … 

What can we compare with the crisis caused by COVID-19 in 2020? It will be said that no two crises are the same, but in the last 150 years, we have found two moments in which Macau truly trembled.

In search of a new model

The economic model we all know in Macau no longer serves; the Chief Executive is the first to admit it. New ideas are needed. Some experts leave their contribution on these pages.