China’s Gambling Mecca of Macao Eases COVID-19 Restrictions

China’s Gambling Mecca of Macao Eases COVID-19 Restrictions

Macau skyline. (photo via Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Asia’s casino-gaming hub of Macao will permit its restaurants, bars, salons, fitness centers and entertainment venues to reopen this Tuesday, August 2, following a citywide COVID-19 lockdown that’s been in place for over a month.

Authorities in the autonomous Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China said the decision to ease social restrictions came after a consecutive nine days passed with zero community COVID-19 infections being reported, as well as more than 14 rounds of mass testing.

From tomorrow, city residents and visitors will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test that’s less than 72 hours old in order to enter most public venues.

According to data from Macao’s Health Bureau, over 90 percent of the city’s residents are already fully vaccinated, although that seems to be no guarantee against infection with the virus’ most recent variants.

City authorities have continued to adhere closely to China’s “Zero-COVID” strategy for stamping out the virus, relying on lockdown and mass testing whenever cases crop up.

According to CNN, an outbreak in mid-June forced the closure of many Macao businesses and later, on July 11, compelled casinos to shut down for the first time in over two years. They reopened on July 23 under capacity limitations for two weeks, which the government referred to as a “consolidation period”.

Gambling is absolutely vital to this small city on China’s southern coast—situated just across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong (another Chinese SAR)—to such a degree that it’s known as the “Las Vegas of Asia”. Traditionally, Macao’s gaming sector supplies over 50 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) and its government counts on casino revenue to supply over 80 percent of its income.

Being so drastically dependent on tourism and gaming, Macao relies on millions of visitors from mainland China to keep its economy running, so, the recent lockdowns and restrictions have taken a heavy toll.

The latest figures from Macao’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau revealed that casino revenues for July fell by 95.3 percent, as compared to the same month last year.

Health authorities said Sunday that the city has recorded a total of 1,821 COVID-19 cases since the latest outbreak began on June 18, a figure that seems small relative to the number of cases affecting other global communities. Yet, it represents the largest surge Macao has seen to date.

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