Macau on Monday began its 11th round of Covid testing for residents as the casino hub extended a lockdown to fend off its worst outbreak since the pandemic began.
Despite a steady decline in Covid cases, with just 27 being reported on Sunday, authorities said Macau’s over 600,000 residents must stay home, with all non-essential businesses shut, until Friday.
Although more than 90% of residents are fully vaccinated, this is the first time Macau has had to grapple with the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
The Chinese special administrative region, which went into lockdown on July 11, has a tally of more than 1,700 infections since the middle of June, after having been largely Covid-free following an outbreak in October 2021.
China’s Zero-Covid Policy
The former Portuguese colony has only one public hospital and its medical system was already stretched before the outbreak.
Macau follows China’s “zero-Covid” policy of stamping out all outbreaks at just about any cost, which runs counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.
Coronavirus testing for all will be done at least twice this week, with rapid antigen tests also required in between.
The six casino operators – Sands China, Wynn Macau, MGM China, Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holding – are racking up losses ahead of bids for new licences by next month.
Still, daily infections are fewer than elsewhere, such as neighbouring Hong Kong, where cases have jumped this month to more than 3,000 a day as curbs have started to ease.
But Macau has an open border with mainland China, and many residents live and work in the adjoining city of Zhuhai.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard