A weeklong closure of Macau’s casinos and non-essential businesses was announced on Saturday as the Chinese gambling hub battled its worst coronavirus outbreak to date.
According to top city official Andre Cheong, Macau will go into “static management” for a week starting on July 11 and residents are required to stay at home. Violators could face up to two years in prison.
Casinos, which in normal times accounted for about 80% of government revenue, will have to close their doors. Some public services and businesses, like supermarkets and pharmacies, can remain open.
Macau reported 71 new Covid cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections since the start of the most recent wave on June 18 to 1,374. This number is low by international standards, but the city adheres to mainland China’s strict zero-Covid policy.
In the third week of the outbreak, health officials predicted that enforcing “static management” and rigorous PCR testing would help prevent a resurgence.
The majority of Macau’s businesses, from bars to theaters, were shut down last month as part of China’s zero-Covid strategy, which aims to eradicate the virus through lockdowns, stringent border controls, and mass testing.
Despite strict health regulations, the city’s casinos had survived a 15-day closure at the beginning of the pandemic.
However, last week, after discovering 13 infections connected to the location, authorities closed one of Macau’s most renowned casinos, the Grand Lisboa, trapping more than 500 people inside.
The 600,000 inhabitants of the former Portuguese colony have undergone numerous rounds of citywide Covid testing and have been instructed to minimize unnecessary activity outside the home.
More than half of the city’s GDP and nearly one-fifth of its workforce are employed by Macau’s casino industry, which is larger than Las Vegas’.
Macau, the only city in China where casino gambling is legal, has seen some of the world’s harshest anti-virus measures, such as strict border controls, lengthy quarantines, and targeted lockdowns, completely wipe out its vital tourism revenues.
The anti-corruption campaign of Chinese President Xi Jinping has also resulted in increased scrutiny of high rollers and dishonest officials who might visit Macau to launder money.
Residents of Macau may experience additional financial hardships as a result of city officials’ declaration on Saturday that employers are not required to pay employees during the Covid-related shutdown.