Macau closes most businesses and restaurants amid mass testing; casinos remain open

People walk past Casino Lisboa in Macau, China December 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

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HONG KONG, June 20 (Reuters) – Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, began its second day of mass COVID-19 testing on Monday, with banks, schools, government departments and other businesses closed, but casinos remaining open.

Testing of Macau’s roughly 600,000 residents is due to end on Tuesday and comes after dozens of locally transmitted cases were discovered over the weekend.

The Chinese-ruled former Portuguese colony adheres to China’s “zero COVID” policy which aims to eradicate all epidemics, pretty much at any cost, going against a global trend of trying to coexist with the virus. .

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Most residents are asked to stay at home, restaurants will be closed for on-site dining and border restrictions have been tightened, meaning casino revenues are expected to be close to zero for at least a week and likely the coming weeks, analysts said.

The Macau government depends on casinos for over 80% of its revenue, with most of the population employed directly or indirectly by the casino industry.

The latest outbreak came suddenly and spread rapidly with an as-yet-unknown source, Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng said in a statement posted on the government’s website.

Macau’s previous coronavirus outbreak was in October last year. An outbreak in the neighboring Chinese territory of Hong Kong this year has seen more than a million confirmed infections and more than 9,000 deaths, overwhelming hospitals and public services.

Macau has only one public hospital with its services already expanding daily.

Macau’s legislature is due to approve an amended gaming law this week that will lay the groundwork for what is required of multi-billion dollar casino operators to keep operating. Read more

“Depending on how quickly Macau is able to bring the new outbreak under control, there is a risk of delay in finalizing amendments to the Gaming Law and subsequent concession

bidding process,” said Sanford C Bernstein analyst Vitaly Umansky.

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Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Michael Perry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement