Initiative: Macao’s innovative and inclusive responses to COVID: a balance between health and economic recovery
Institution: Response and Coordination Centre for Novel Coronavirus Infection, Macao S.A.R. Government
Problem: The COVID-19 epidemic is one of the most significant catastrophes the Macao Special Administrative Region has encountered since its founding. Macao was especially vulnerable to the pandemic’s external shocks due to its lack of economic diversification, restricted land supply, and government revenues generated almost entirely from casino taxes. Macao’s real GDP fell by 58.2 percent in 2020, one of the greatest recessions in modern history. Revenues from the government plummeted by 66 percent in the first three quarters of 2020.
Solution: The Response and Coordination Centre for Novel Coronavirus Infection was established on 21 January 2020, a day before the first confirmed case in Macao. The Center is under the overall supervision of the Chief Executive of Macao and consists of representatives from several government bureaus such as Health, Education and Youth Development, Transportation and Government Information. The Center is responsible for planning, guiding, and coordinating all public and private entities in Macao for prevention, control, and treatment of the outbreak.
The Center took measures to respond to challenges of combating a pandemic in a densely populated city, mitigating economic shock from decreased tourism and keeping the residents informed. The Center also actively used digital technologies, such as the Personal Health Declaration app and a blockchain-based health code system in an effort to resume normalcy.
Impact: The travel from Mainland China to Macao for tourism was fully resumed in September 2020, after nearly a half-year suspension, marking a critical turning point in Macao’s economic recovery. Since January 2020, Macao has had over 9 million visitors under a travel bubble agreement with Mainland China. In the first quarter of 2021, the Center played a vital role in the acquisition of vaccines and immunization which were made available for free to frontline employees and the public. In a recent survey, 94.7% of Macao residents were satisfied with the overall performance of the government in dealing with the pandemic.