Chinese gambling hub Macau to ease Covid-19 restrictions

(CNN) — The Macau Gaming Center will allow bars, restaurants, lounges, gyms and entertainment venues to reopen on Tuesday, August 2, lifting a citywide Covid-19 lockdown that has lasted more than a month.

The authorities said the decision came after nine consecutive days of no cases of infection in the area of ​​special administration and more than 14 rounds of mass testing for Covid-19.

From Tuesday, people will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours to enter most locations.

More than 90% of Macau’s residents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the city’s health bureau. But authorities at the gambling center are closely monitoring China’s “zero Covid” policy, which aims to eradicate outbreaks through mass testing and closing establishments when cases are reported.

Many businesses have been closed since mid-June due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which later forced the casinos to close on July 11 for the first time in more than two years. Since July 23, Macau casinos have been open with limited capacity as part of the so-called “consolidation period” for Covid-19 prevention and control.

Gambling is the blood of Macau, a tiny town in southern China that depends on millions of mainland Chinese tourists.

Recent restrictions threatened Macau’s economy, which traditionally depends on visitors and for which the gaming sector accounts for more than 50% of the gross domestic product (GDP). The government also receives over 80% of its income from casinos. According to the latest data from the Macau Gambling Inspection and Coordination Bureau, Macau casino revenues fell 95.3% in July compared to the same period last year.

Health authorities said on Sunday that since June 18, when the latest outbreak began, 1,821 cases have been reported in Macau. The number of cases seems small compared to coronavirus spikes elsewhere, but it was the largest outbreak the city has faced to date.

Macau is completely closed to all visitors, except for residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Most people must be quarantined for 10 days upon arrival, however some of the low-risk areas in mainland China have been released.

The Beijing Bureau of CNN contributed to this report.

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