Macao to shutter casinos for a week in COVID-19 outbreak

BEIJING (AP) — The Asian gambling center of Macao will close all its casinos for a week starting Monday and largely restrict people to their homes as it tries to stop a COVID-19 outbreak that has infected more than 1,400 people in the past three weeks.

All businesses have been ordered to shut except for supermarkets and others providing essential services. Residents must stay home unless they need to go out, such as for food shopping or to work in a sector deemed essential.

Macao, a semi-autonomous Chinese region like nearby Hong Kong, is facing its first sizeable outbreak of the pandemic. The city of 680,000 people recorded 93 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total in the ongoing outbreak to 1,467.

The former Portuguese colony has been following a version of China’s “zero-COVID” strategy, locking down buildings that have cases and conducting repeated rounds of mass testing to find and isolate infected individuals.

Authorities warned that police would be patrolling the streets and violators would face penalties, according to Macao media reports. Anyone going out must wear a mask, with adults required to use an N95 or equivalent one.

The measures, announced Saturday, expand on restrictions that have been in place since June 23. The earlier order closed hair salons, gyms, cinemas, bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues and banned dining in restaurants, limiting them to takeout or delivery.

Macao’s economy is heavily dependent on its casinos and related businesses, which have been hit hard by the pandemic. Revenue from gambling recovered somewhat last year but is still far below pre-pandemic levels.

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