Macau casinos allowed to remain open amid COVID-19 lockdown extension
Macau has extended its COVID-19 lockdown as of Thursday. However, casinos have been allowed to remain open, according to a statement from Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng on the government's website.
Furthermore, Macau's more than 600,000 residents were required to undergo a second round of mass testing this week, as the number of infected people rose to more than 100 cases. Positive cases include people working or visiting the casinos, with a number of them related to a wedding banquet that was held inside SJM Holding's Grand Lisboa Palace.
Additionally, on Tuesday, satellite hotel and casino Fortuna, a venue operating under the umbrella of SJM Holdings on Macau's main peninsula, was locked down by authorities due to a coronavirus infection, with some 700 people forced to quarantine, as reported by Reuters. According to analysts, casino revenues are likely to be close to zero in the coming weeks.
While the virus has been kept largely under control in Macau and case numbers are small by global comparison, Ho Iat-seng said Thursday the situation was now “more complicated and more serious than ever before," according to Hong Kong Free Press. The government also said it has struck an agreement with the gaming sector that in the future only casinos reporting cases would be shut down.
As the world’s biggest gambling hub battles to curb a raise in locally transmitted cases, bars, cinemas, hair salons, as well as theaters, fitness centers, and leisure facilities must halt operations from 5 p.m local time as of Thursday.
Macau's previous coronavirus outbreak was in October last year and the city has not previously had any large-scale quarantine or lockdown. Macau's cases are still far below daily infections in places including neighboring Hong Kong, where infections have increased to over 1,000 in recent days.
Macau adheres to Beijing's "zero COVID" policy that aims to eradicate all outbreaks, at just about any cost, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.
Hong Kong's outbreak this year saw more than 1 million confirmed infections, and more than 9,000 deaths, swamping hospitals and public services. Officials there say they are unlikely to further tighten restrictions as the pressure on medical services has not increased.
Macau has only one public hospital and its services are already stretched on a daily basis. The territory's swift plan to test its entire population comes as it keeps open the border with mainland China, with many residents living and working in the next-door Chinese city Zhuhai.