Macau on Saturday announced a week-long shutdown of its casinos and non-essential businesses as the Chinese gambling hub faced its worst coronavirus outbreak yet.
Macau will enter “static administration” for a week from July 11, and residents will have to stay at home with violators facing up to two years in prison, senior city official Andre Cheong said at a news conference.
Some public services and businesses such as supermarkets and pharmacies can remain open, but casinos – which accounted for around 80 per cent of government revenue in normal times – will have to close their doors.
Macau on Saturday reported 71 new Covid cases, bringing the total number of infections to 1,374 since the last wave began on June 18, which is low by global standards, but the city is following mainland China’s strict zero-Covid policy.
Health officials said imposing “static management” coupled with intensive PCR testing in the third week of the outbreak would help prevent a resurgence.
Last month Macau closed most of its businesses, from bars to cinemas, as it sticks to China’s zero-Covid strategy, which aims to eradicate the virus through lockdowns, strict border controls and mass testing.
Despite strict health guidelines, the city’s casinos had managed to stay open after an initial 15-day shutdown early in the pandemic.
But last week, authorities locked down one of Macau’s most famous casinos, the Grand Lisboa, and jailed more than 500 people after finding 13 infections linked to the venue.
The 600,000 residents of the former Portuguese colony have been told to minimize unnecessary activity outside the home and have been subjected to multiple rounds of city-wide Covid tests.
Macau is home to a casino industry larger than Las Vegas’s, accounting for more than half of the city’s gross domestic product and employing almost a fifth of the population.
As the only city in China where casino gambling is legal, Macau has seen its vital tourism revenue wiped out by some of the world’s toughest anti-virus measures – including tight border controls, week-long quarantines and targeted lockdowns.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has also prompted increased scrutiny of high-spending gamblers and corrupt officials who might travel to Macau to launder money.
Macau residents could face more economic woes as city officials said Saturday employers are not required to pay workers during the Covid-related shutdown.
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