Macau shuts casinos for two weeks

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Gaming taxes in Macau fall sharply in January 

Macau’s casino industry will close for two weeks to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, the government says.

The Daily Telegraph reports that chief executive of the former Portuguese colony, Ho Iat Seng, said on Tuesday that all casinos would halt operations and public services and public transport would also be scaled back, according to public broadcaster RTHK.

At a media briefing in the world’s biggest gambling hub, Ho appealed to the public to stay home during what he referred to as “this critical time” and said people should only go out to buy food, according to RTHK.

The move to temporarily close casinos is set to make a substantial impact on Macau’s economy, which derives 50 per cent of its economic revenue from the gambling industry.

Macau has 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Macau gaming body asks patrons to wear masks

The Macau Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau announced last weekend that all guests entering any of the SAR’s 41 casinos must now wear a face mask or risk being asked to leave.

Asgam reported that the measure is the latest in a growing series of restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus into and through Macau,.

It also follows confirmation of an eighth Macau case of the virus, which has killed at least 305 and infected 14,300 globally, over the weekend and the first in a Macau local, with the female patient reported to have picked up the infection during a recent trip to Zhuhai.

In implementing its latest preventative measure, the DICJ said Macau’s “six gaming companies have requested that all persons entering the casino wear masks from 11pm on 1 February at the request of the Gaming Inspection and Coordinations Bureau.

“If masks are not worn in the casino, the venue has the right to ask the relevant person to leave.”

The DICJ had already required all casino works to wear masks during work hours and for operators to conduct temperature testing at all entrances, totaling 405 public entrances and 47 employee entrances city-wide.

Macau quiet amid coronavirus outbreak

Macau is usually bustling with gamblers during China’s Lunar New Year holiday but the flood of tourists has been reduced to a trickle this year as fears grow over a coronavirus that has killed almost 260 people.

Yahoo News reported last weekend that the number of visitors to the world’s largest casino hub has plunged nearly 80 per cent in the past week, transforming the city into a shadow of its former self.

As the only place in China that allows gambling, the former Portuguese colony is normally a huge draw for people from other parts of the country.

But on the sixth day of the holiday, only several dozen people were seen at the usually teeming ruins of the 17th-century St Paul’s church – a tourist hotspot.

Most wore surgical masks as a preventative measure against the novel coronavirus, which has infected almost 12,000 people across the nation.

“Everyone is wearing a mask. It is not convenient to take pictures – we dare not remove the masks,” 23-year-old Wei I Ting, a tourist from Taiwan told AFP.

Shotah Zhang, who owns a pastry shop, said he was worried about the future of his business.

“As you can see, almost no one is here. We have quite a big problem because we are a small business,” Zhang said.

The outbreak is dealing a heavy blow to Macau’s economy, which has bet most of its chips on gambling and tourism.

Figures from January show gaming revenue fell 11.3 per cent on the same month last year.

The city had confirmed seven cases of the virus as of Saturday and authorities have announced measures to curb its spread, including temperature checks and mandatory health declarations for visitors at the border with mainland China.

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