| 13 April 2024, Saturday |

Macau COVID outbreak hits more than 900 as infections spread

Infections from the coronavirus have increased to more than 900 since mid-June in Macau, the largest gaming centre in the world, as officials work to limit the epidemic, which is the greatest since the pandemic started. On Tuesday, 89 new cases were confirmed there.

In the special administrative region of China, which has essentially shut down to stop the coronavirus from spreading, more than 13,000 people are quarantined.

This week, three COVID-19 tests are being administered to the city’s more than 600,000 citizens, and in between each test, quick antigen testing are also necessary.

While the former Portuguese colony has not introduced a full scale lockdown seen in mainland Chinese cities like Shanghai, most facilities are shut and restaurants can only provide takeaway.

Only Macau’s casinos have been allowed to stay open in a move to ensure job security. The government relies on the industry for over 80% of its tax revenue with most of the population employed directly or indirectly by the casino resorts.

While casinos are physically open, there are hardly any gamblers inside and very few staff working, with many employees asked to stay at home, as per the government’s request.

The stringent measures come after Macau has been largely COVID-free since an outbreak in October 2021. It still has an open border with mainland China, with its economy firmly hinged to the inflow of Chinese visitors.

Macau adheres to China’s “zero-COVID” policy which aims to eradicate all outbreaks, at just about any cost, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.

Its cases are still far below daily infections in other places, including neighbouring Hong Kong where cases have jumped to more than 2,000 a day this month.

However, Macau only has one public hospital, whose services are already stretched on a daily basis. Officials have put up a makeshift hospital next to the city’s Las Vegas style Cotai strip to help cope with the rise in cases.

  • Reuters