Authorities in the world’s biggest gambling hub ordered the closure of the city’s non-essential businesses, including more than 30 casinos, for one week. They also told all residents to stay home and only step out for essentials.
Macau’s Government Information Bureau said all businesses would be required to suspend their operations unless they were “deemed essential to the community and to the day-to-day lives of the members of the public”.
“The latest step is in order to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the community,” the statement released on Saturday said.
The Chinese territory near Hong Kong recorded 59 new Covid cases on Monday, bringing the total number of infections in the latest outbreak to 1,526.
This is the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that casinos and other businesses in the city have been closed completely. Restrictions that were imposed last month only limited the number of workers in businesses.
Around 19,000 people have been placed under mandatory quarantine as authorities adhere to China’s “zero-Covid policy”.
Mass RT-PCR testing drives have been ordered across the territory – four times this week – to try and detect all cases of the virus. Members of the public have already been tested at least six times since mid-June and are also expected to undergo rapid antigen tests every day.
While more than 90 per cent of Macau’s 600,000 population is fully vaccinated, this is the first time the city has had to grapple with the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
With casinos being shut outright, analysts say revenues from gambling might not recover until the end of the third quarter or during the fourth quarter. The special administrative region’s economy is heavily reliant on casino taxes.
“We would probably need to write-off July and likely August as well from the models,” DS Kim, an analyst at JP Morgan, said.
“Because mainland Chinese tourists accounted for 71 per cent of all tourists and more than 90 per cent of gross gaming revenue, they have to duly follow mainland China’s zero-Covid policy, which is highly restrictive,” Terry Ng, an equity research analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets Hong Kong told BBC News.
Additional reporting by agencies