Coronavirus: Macau casinos to reopen for business as 15-day shutdown order comes to an end

19-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Macau’s casinos will reopen for business on Thursday, the city’s government has said, as a 15-day shutdown imposed to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus comes to an end.

But the order would remain in place for other entertainment premises such as pubs, karaoke bars, cinemas and steam rooms, the authorities said on Monday.

Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai-nong said the closure order would not be extended and casino operators had 30 days to return to full business.

Casino visitors would be required to wear a mask and have their temperature checked at the entrance.

The closure was the longest ever shutdown of gambling activities in Macau since it returned to Chinese administration in 1999. It was only the second such suspension, after Typhoon Mangkhut forced a 33-hour shutdown two years ago.

The closure was to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus after it was found that there were two casino workers among the 10 cases of the virus, which spreads the disease now called Covid-19, in Macau.

There are 39 casinos in Macau and the gaming sector employs more than 56,000 people, some 8 per cent of the city’s population.

Meanwhile, non-resident workers returning to the casino hub from mainland China from Thursday will have to undergo medical surveillance for 14 days in designated locations in Zhuhai and obtain a health certificate from the authorities before being allowed to enter.

Macau lawmaker Au Kam-san said the lifting of the closure order of casinos was expected. “Gaming industry is too important to Macau. The government could not afford to let it close for too long. There could also be pressure from the casino operators. Because they are still paying the staff while the casinos are closed.”

Au believed the tightened border control would force employers to provide accommodation to their workers who live across the border Zhuhai or come from elsewhere.

“Some 60,000 to 70,000 people travel across the border every day to work in Macau. Your business just can’t operate if they have to be quarantined for 14 days when they enter Macau,” he said.

Health officials also said that if needed, Macau residents would be put under similar quarantine measures to curb the risks of spreading the virus during parallel trading, in which locals made trips across the border every day to buy and sell goods.

Officials said they came across a case in which someone made 18 trips across the border in one day.

The closure of the casinos started on February 5. Macau has not reported any new cases of the virus since February 4. Among the 10 confirmed cases of the viral infection, five patients have recovered, while five are still in hospital with “mild” symptoms. Government services, which had mostly been suspended since early this month, will also resume operations later this week.


Category: Hong Kong

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