Mon, Feb 3, 12:59pm by Charlotte Lee
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 reports 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 he 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.
In casinos, all staff have been ordered to wear masks and temperature checks are being carried out at entrances.
The government has also banned anyone who has visited Hubei province – the epicentre of the outbreak – from entering the casinos altogether.
But a 24-year-old marketing supervisor for a coffee shop was more hopeful.
“We believe after the virus is gone, customers will come back,” she said.
Macau’s streets have been left empty due to fears over the coronavirus.
At casinos, all staff have been ordered to wear masks and temperature checks are being carried out at entrances.
— Liquidity Lighthouse (@LiquidityL) February 2, 2020
Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau has introduced new legislation that bans workers from entering casino floors outside work hours.
Vegas Slots Online reports the former government made the move in a bid to fight crime and gambling addiction.
It is expected to impact 54,000 gaming workers, including employees that are not directly involved with gaming operations.
As per the new law, employees can only enter the casino floor while not on shift within the first three days of the Chinese New Year.
An exception will be made for civil servants and in certain situations where there is a legitimate cause for employees to be on the gaming floor.
The previous government left office on December 20, but put these new rules in place due to the higher risk of employees to gambling addiction.
Along with employees being banned from the casino floor after their work day is over, the new legislation includes other bans.
The sanctioning procedure for those who violate the casino entry ban has been simplified.
Players under the age of 21 who gain entry to casinos illegally will be fined based on mechanisms established by the government.
The legislation strengthened rules regarding the recording of images and sounds at the casino, as well as mobile phone usage and other types of equipment being banned at the tables.
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