HONG KONG (Reuters) – Macau extended its COVID-19 restrictions including the closure of bars, cinemas, hair salons and outdoor parks from Thursday, its chief executive said as the world’s biggest gambling hub battles to curb a rise in locally transmitted cases.
Casinos are allowed to remain open while theatres, fitness centers, and leisure facilities must halt operations from 5 pm local time on Thursday, Ho Iat Seng said in a statement on the government’s website.
Only takeaway is allowed from dining facilities.
Macau’s more than 600,000 residents were required to undergo a second round of mass testing this week, as the number of infected people jumped to more than 100 cases.
Positive cases include those working or visiting the casinos with a number of them related to a wedding banquet that was held inside SJM Holding’s Grand Lisboa Palace.
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A hotel and casino resort on Macau’ main peninsula was locked down by authorities on Tuesday due to a coronavirus infection, with some 700 people forced to quarantine.
Macau’s previous coronavirus outbreak was in October last year and the city has not previously had any large scale quarantine or lockdown. Macau’s cases are still far below daily infections in places including neighboring Hong Kong where infections have jumped to over 1,000 in recent days.
A Chinese-ruled former Portuguese colony, Macau adheres to Beijing’s “zero COVID” policy that aims to eradicate all outbreaks, at just about any cost, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.
Casino revenues are likely to close to zero in the coming weeks, analysts said.
Hong Kong’s outbreak this year saw more than 1 million confirmed infections, and more than 9,000 deaths, swamping hospitals and public services. Officials there say they are unlikely to further tighten restrictions as the pressure on medical services has not increased.
Macau has only one public hospital and its services are already stretched on a daily basis. The territory’s swift plan to test its entire population comes as it keeps open the border with mainland China, with many residents living and working in next-door Chinese city Zhuhai.
(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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