Macao shut down all its casinos for the first time in more than two years on July 11 to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the BBC reports.
Non-essential businesses including 30 casinos will be closed for a week while schools, bars and cinemas have already shut down in response to earlier orders.
According to reports, Macao has detected over 1,500 COVID-19 cases since mid-June and nearly 19,000 people are isolating.
Macao’s Government Information Bureau has required all businesses to shut down except for those that are “essential to the community and day-to-day lives of the members of the public.” The Bureau issued a statement saying that "the latest step is in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”
Despite the lack of a citywide lockdown, authorities have issued a five day shutdown in more than 30 zones in the city due to a “high risk” level.
Although more than 90% of Macao’s 600,000 citizens have received their COVID-19 vaccines, this is the city’s first encounter with the rapidly spreading omicron variant.
Officials have turned several casino resorts into medical facilities to accommodate the growing number of infections since Macao only has one public hospital.
The gambling industry is responsible for the majority of the population’s employment in Macao and upwards of 80% of government revenues.
In accordance with China’s zero-COVID policy, Macao has implemented mass testing, forced quarantines and snap lockdowns of entire neighbourhoods.
Terry Ng, research analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets Hong Kong, says that “Chinese tourists accounted for 71% of all tourists and more than 90% of gross gaming revenue [in Macao].” As a result, Macao is required to follow China’s COVID-19 policy that has produced adverse effects for the local economy.
This is evident as Macao casino shares plunged as restrictions were put in place. Shares in Sands China, a subsidiary of casino giant Las Vegas Sands, dropped to 9%. Furthermore, shares in Melco International, Wynn Macao, SJM Holdings, Galaxy Entertainment, MGM China slipped between 6% and 7%.
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