China's gambling hub Macao to ease Covid-19 restrictions

World 13:24 01.08.2022

The gambling hub of Macao will allow bars, restaurants, salons, gyms and entertainment venues to reopen on Tuesday, August 2, lifting a citywide Covid-19 lockdown that lasted more than a month.

Authorities said the decision came after nine consecutive days without reported community infections within the special administration region and more than 14 rounds of mass Covid-19 tests.

From Tuesday, people will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within the prior 72 hours to enter most venues.

More than 90% of Macao's residents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data from the city's Health Bureau. But authorities in the gambling hub are closely following China's "zero-Covid" policy, which aims to stamp out outbreaks with mass testing and venue closures when cases are reported.

Many businesses have been closed since mid-June due to an outbreak of Covid-19, which later forced casinos to shut on July 11 for the first time in more than two years. Since July 23, Macao's casinos have been open with limited capacity under what it called a "consolidation period" of Covid-19 prevention and control.

Gambling is the lifeblood of Macao, a tiny southern Chinese city that depends on millions of tourists from mainland China.

The recent restrictions have threatened Macao's economy, which traditionally depends on visitors and for which the game sector accounts for more than 50% of its gross domestic product (GDP). The government also relies on casinos for more than 80% of its income. According to the latest figures from Macao's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, revenue from Macao casinos dropped 95.3% in July compared with the same period last year.

Since June 18, when the latest outbreak began, 1,821 cases have been reported in Macao, health authorities said Sunday. The case numbers sound small compared to coronavirus surges elsewhere but was the largest flare-up the city has faced to date.

Macao is totally closed to all visitors except residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Most people must quarantine for 10 days on arrival -- however, some from low-risk areas in mainland China are exempt.

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