Macau closing all casinos to fight Covid

Macau closing all casinos to fight Covid

Widespread business lockdown to start Monday as gambling hub sees jump in cases

A woman walks past a staff member inside the Grand Lisboa casino in Macau on July 4. (Reuters Photo)
A woman walks past a staff member inside the Grand Lisboa casino in Macau on July 4. (Reuters Photo)

MACAU: Macau will shut almost all business premises including casinos for a week from Monday as a Covid-19 outbreak in the gambling hub showed few signs of abating.

Essential business operations including supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open, the Macao Daily reported, quoting city officials at a briefing on Saturday.

The measure, which follows multiple rounds of mass testing, returns the enclave to its toughest pandemic restrictions. Macau on Saturday announced 71 new cases, bringing the total in the latest outbreak since June 18 to 1,374.

Macau had previously shut schools, public venues and entertainment outlets including bars to cinemas. It also locked down the Grand Lisboa casino hotel after a cluster of 13 cases was found linked to the venue, trapping some 500 people inside.

The city, which relies on gaming for 80% of its revenue and had been avoiding a systematic shutdown of casinos, previously only closed the venues once, in February 2020.

Macau is following China’s zero-Covid playbook, relying on mass testing and the confinement of residents to identify and then quash transmission chains. But the policies have left the mainland mired in a cycle of unpredictable, stop-start restrictions that are taking an enormous economic and social toll.

The curbs are likely to deal a substantial blow to the gaming hub, which has been struggling with a dearth of tourists and slumping revenue as mainland policies discourage travel to the territory.

Beyond the virus, the casino industry is facing other challenges including a new law that significantly increases government control over operations and Beijing’s crackdown on high-rolling gamblers to curb capital outflows. 

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