In view of the speed with which COVID-19 spread throughout China, Macau implemented various preventive measures under the Law on the Prevention, Control and Treatment of Infectious Diseases. After more than 30 days without any new cases, some measures were revoked. However, in March 2020 – given the spread of the virus across the globe – Macau was forced to reinforce measures in order to contain the re-appearance of the virus in the region.
Although Macau has largely been spared the human toll of the 2019 novel coronavirus, the region's economy will suffer greatly in the short term. The unpredictable nature of the outbreak and the important human and economic costs deriving therefrom have led to inevitable questions, such as what kind of legal consequences can this virus entail? Further, if the severe economic downturn affects the fulfilment of contracts, could this be a case of force majeure, and could contracts be rescinded on this basis?
In June 2019 the Legislative Assembly of the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) enacted the Cybersecurity Law. Prior to this, no legislation covered cybersecurity issues in the Macau SAR. As such, this new law reflects the region's efforts to respond to the latest regulatory trends regarding privacy and security and establish a legal regime for such matters. The main purpose of the law is to protect the networks, systems and data of critical infrastructure operators of the Macau SAR.
The new Arbitration Bill was approved in general terms by the Legislative Assembly in 2018 and voted into law in November 2019. Once the New Arbitration Law enters into force in May 2020, Macau's dual arbitration system will cease to exist. This legislative cohesion is likely to encourage foreign investors and partners to choose Macau as their jurisdiction for disputes and strengthen its arbitration credentials internationally.
Economic diversification cannot be achieved overnight; nonetheless, the government regularly promotes it in public announcements. However, can Macau really have a diversified economy, given its existing dependence on gaming? Arguably, in order to diversify its economy, Macau must establish clear rules and enforced compliance in this sector.