HomeWorld NewsMacau closes all casinos to curb COVID, gambling stocks plunge

Macau closes all casinos to curb COVID, gambling stocks plunge

Residents wearing face masks line up to get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Macau, China July 4, 2022. REUTERS/John Mak

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  • Over 30 areas across the city locked down
  • Four rounds of mass COVID testing planned this week
  • Macau’s casinos have effectively been closed for several weeks

HONG KONG, July 11 (Reuters) – Macau closed all of its casinos for the first time in more than two years on Monday, sending shares of gambling companies plummeting as authorities struggle to contain the worst coronavirus outbreak to date in the largest gaming center in the world.

The more than 30 casinos and other businesses in the city will close for a week and people have been ordered to stay at home, although short trips for essential services have been allowed.

Police will monitor the flow of people outside and tough penalties will be imposed on those who disobey, the government said.

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Although many casinos have effectively been shut down over the past three weeks with minimal authorized staff, the more drastic measures have hit investor confidence hard. Some analysts have predicted that any recovery in gaming revenue may not occur until the end of the third quarter or during the fourth quarter.

“We would probably need to remove July and probably August as well from the models,” said JP Morgan analyst DS Kim.

Shares of Sands China (1928.HK) fell 9%, while shares of Melco International (0200.HK), Wynn Macau (1128.HK), SJM (0880.HK), Galaxy (0027.HK) , MGM China (2282 .HK) fell between 6% and 7%.

Macau has recorded around 1,500 COVID-19 infections since mid-June. About 19,000 people are in mandatory quarantine as the government adheres to China’s “zero-COVID” policy which aims to eradicate all outbreaks, bucking a global trend of trying to coexist with the virus.

More than 30 areas of the city that have been deemed high risk are now on lockdown, meaning no one is allowed in or out for at least 5 days. Although the government has said it is not imposing a citywide lockdown, the strict measures mean Macau is effectively locked down.

Casinos were last closed in Macau in February 2020 for 15 days. The government has previously been reluctant to close casinos due to its job protection mandate. The industry directly and indirectly employs most of the population and accounts for over 80% of government revenue.

Frustration is mounting over the government’s handling of the outbreak. Fights broke out at testing centers while some residents had to queue for more than 20 hours to access health facilities.

Residents will be required to participate in mass COVID-19 testing four times this week. They have already been tested six times since mid-June and are expected to carry out rapid antigen tests daily.

More than 90% of Macau’s 600,000 residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but this is the first time the city has had to battle the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Authorities have added two hotels at popular casino resorts to be used as COVID medical facilities as they try to increase capacity to handle surging infections. Read more

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Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Stephen Coates and Edwina Gibbs

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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