China’s gambling mecca, Macau, eases COVID-19 restrictions

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Macau’s Asian Casino Gaming Center will allow its restaurants, bars, lounges, fitness centers and entertainment venues to reopen this Tuesday, August 2, following a citywide COVID-19 lockdown that has been in place for over a month.

Authorities in the Autonomous Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China said the decision to ease social restrictions came after nine consecutive days with no reported community COVID-19 infections, as well as more than 14 rounds of mass testing.

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Starting tomorrow, city residents and visitors will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test that is less than 72 hours old to enter most public places.

According to data from the Macau Health Bureau, more than 90% of the city’s residents are already fully immunized, although this does not appear to be a guarantee against infection with the newest variants of the virus.

City authorities have continued to adhere closely to China’s “Zero-COVID” strategy to eradicate the virus, relying on lockdown and mass testing whenever cases arise.

According to CNN, an outbreak in mid-June forced the closure of many Macau businesses and later, on July 11, forced casinos to close for the first time in more than two years. They reopened on July 23 with capacity limitations for two weeks, which the government called a “consolidation period”.

Gambling is absolutely vital to this small town on the south coast of China, located just across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong (another SAR of China), so much so that it is known as the “Las Vegas of Asia”. Traditionally, Macau’s gaming sector provides over 50% of its gross domestic product (GDP) and its government relies on casino revenue to provide over 80% of its revenue.

Being so drastically dependent on tourism and gambling, Macau relies on millions of visitors from mainland China to keep its economy going, so recent lockdowns and restrictions have taken their toll.

Latest figures from the Macau Gambling Inspection and Coordination Bureau revealed that casino revenues for July fell 95.3% compared to the same month last year.

Health authorities said on Sunday the city had recorded a total of 1,821 cases of COVID-19 since the latest outbreak began on June 18, a figure that appears low compared to the number of cases affecting other global communities. Still, this represents the largest increase Macau has seen to date.


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