COVID-19 Casino Closure Empties Macau Streets

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Macau’s streets looked deserted Monday after casinos and most other businesses at the core of the game were ordered to close as the Chinese territory near Hong Kong battles a coronavirus outbreak.

The population had to stay at home except to buy food or other basic goods. Authorities warned that anyone who broke the rules would be punished.

At the weekend, casinos were ordered to close for at least a week, given the rise of infections in the territory of 700,000 people. The government on Monday reported 59 new cases, bringing the outbreak total to 1,526.

Macau and Hong Kong follow the Chinese mainland’s zero-COVID strategy, which aims to isolate all those infected.

People had to register for bus tickets or other public transport, which operated at reduced capacity, said a neighbor, Pedro Kong.

“I think this measure is not necessary, because it will increase the inconvenience,” said Kong, 40.

Casino gambling is the foundation of Macau’s economy, but it has been hit hard by travel restrictions to combat the virus.

This week’s move was the first complete casino closure since 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. The decision reflected authorities’ concern about containing the new outbreak. The restrictions imposed in June limited its workforce to 10% of normal.

The government said it planned to test everyone in the city this week. Bus drivers, food deliverers and others were to be tested daily.

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