Macau launches more Covid-19 testing as infections soar

People queueing for Covid-19 testing in Macau on June 20, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Macau kicked off a new round of city-wide Covid-19 testing on Monday (July 4) for its more than 600,000 residents, as officials raced to contain a spiralling number of cases in the worst outbreak to hit the world's biggest gambling hub since the pandemic began.

Coronavirus testing for all residents will take place three times this week across the city, with people also required to take rapid antigen tests in-between as Monday’s (July 4) 68 new infections took the tally to 852 since the middle of June. About 12,000 people are in quarantine.

While Macau, a Chinese special administrative region, has not introduced a full-scale lockdown seen in mainland Chinese cities like Shanghai, the city is already largely closed.

All non-essential government services are shut. Schools, parks, sports and entertainment facilities are closed, and restaurants can only provide takeaway items.

However, Macau has allowed casinos to stay open to ensure job security in an industry that generates more than 80 per cent of government income by employing most of the city’s population, whether directly or indirectly.

Still, punters are scarce and the casinos have very few staff, with many employees staying home in line with a government directive.

The stringent measures come after Macau has been largely Covid-free since an outbreak in October 2021.

Analysts said the six operators, Sands China, Wynn Macau, MGM China, Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holding are likely to have no income for several weeks because of the measures.

Macau adheres to China's "zero-Covid" policy, which aims to eradicate all outbreaks, at just about any cost, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.

Macau's cases are still far below daily infections in other places, including neighbouring Hong Kong, where cases have jumped to more than 2,000 a day this month.

However, it only has one public hospital, whose services are already stretched on a daily basis.

About 600 Chinese health workers have come to Macau to assist coronavirus efforts. Officials have set up a makeshift hospital next to the city’s Las Vegas-style Cotai strip to help cope.

The territory has an open border with mainland China, with many residents living and working in the adjoining city of Zhuhai.

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