One Dead in Hong Kong from Virus, Macao Closes Casinos

By Ryan Gandolfo, February 5, 2020

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China’s two southern special administrative regions (SAR) have had a difficult week so far, with Hong Kong reporting the city’s first death from the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) while neighboring Macao announced its casinos will be closed for two weeks to avoid the spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, a 39-year-old man died in Hong Kong after he had returned to the SAR on January 23 following a visit to Wuhan, where the virus intially broke out, according to Financial Times. The patient had suffered from an underlying health condition, and was confirmed to have the infection on January 31. This marks the second reported death from the virus outside of the Chinese mainland, with the first occurring in the Philippines.

The man, whose name was not publically shared, reportedly was not exposed to wild animals during his Wuhan trip and was in a stable condition before his health suddenly worsened and he suffered a cardiac arrest, according to Hong Kong’s Health Authority, as cited by FT. Hong Kong has 17 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as of February 5.

Meanwhile, neighboring Macao has a ‘gambling problem,’ with city government suspending casino operations for 15 days, following a thorough evaluation on the spread of coronavirus in Macao, which currently has 10 confirmed cases.

READ MORE: Canton Fair Venue Suspends Activities Due to Coronavirus

The Chief Executive, Mr. Ho lat Seng, announced the measures on Tuesday during a press conference, following two new cases of the coronavirus, both involving Macao residents.

According to a statement from Macao’s official government website, “The 15-day suspension will also cover the following facilities: cinemas, theatres, indoor playgrounds, game centres, Internet cafes, billiard rooms, bowling alleys, steam baths, massage parlours, beauty salons, fitness centres, health clubs, karaoke premises, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, and dance halls.”

Galaxy Macau, a casino resort located on the Cotai Strip. Image via @macauphotoagency/Unsplash

At the press conference, Mr. Ho told reporters that Zhong Nanshan, the doctor who discovered SARS in 2003 and currently heads a team of experts on the novel coronavirus, said he believes the peak of the disease may arrive within the next 10 days.

In Macao, gambling is an integral part of the local economy, accounting for four-fifths of government revenue. The New York Times writer Alexandra Stevenson put the closures of all 41 casinos in Macao into perspective, writing “It’s like closing the Las Vegas Strip, six times over,” in an article published on the evening of February 4.

Gross gaming revenue in Macao amounted to USD36.5 billion in 2019, a 3.6% drop compared to the year before. NYT notes that US casino operators, such as Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, rely on their Macao operations, given the city’s gambling industry’s size and stature.

However, Mr. Ho noted at the press conference that the city has enough financial reserves to get through any difficulty brought on by the virus outbreak.

For regular updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, click here.

[Cover image via @macauphotoagency/Unsplash]

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