The Macau government announced that from the stroke of midnight on Saturday (September 25) the region entered “immediate pandemic prevention” mode, due to the risk of a community outbreak of Covid-19 after two people living in Macau tested positive for the illness.
The local authorities affirmed at a Saturday morning press conference that the government was not ordering the closure of the city’s casinos, despite a variety of public venues being temporarily shuttered.
The alert followed two men working as security guards being confirmed as having Covid-19. These two cases were said to be linked to a Macau permanent resident who had been undergoing quarantine after returning from overseas: he was confirmed in the early hours of Friday as having Covid-19, and classified as an imported case.
A number of countermeasures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Macau was announced after confirmation of the two new cases. The fresh measures are likely still to be in place during the upcoming Autumn Golden Week, a Chinese holiday period. Several tourism industry insiders had been expecting the festive period to bring many mainland visitors – particularly from Guangdong – to Macau.
Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Au Ieong U, admitted during Saturday’s press conference that tourism volumes to Macau during the Autumn Golden Week were likely to be negatively affected by the latest news and the Covid-19 countermeasures.
The latest Covid-19 countermeasures are roughly similar to those introduced in early August, coinciding with detection among four locals of the Delta variant of Covid-19, considered more infectious than the initial strain.
According to several investment analysts, the tighter countermeasures introduced in August were the reason for a sharp contraction that month in casino business. Macau casino gross gaming revenue fell by 47.4 percent sequentially in August, to MOP4.44 billion (US$554.5 million), compared to MOP8.44 billion in July.
On Saturday, the Macau authorities also announced that – as with the August alert – there will be mass testing of the entire population. It was due to start at 3pm that day. A total of 52 testing stations – 38 of them temporary and specifically for use in the alert – will be utilised across the city. The tally includes testing stations in casino resorts. The mass screening is scheduled to end on September 28 (Tuesday).
The two latest cases involved Nepalese security guards working at the Golden Crown China Hotel. The facility, near Macau International Airport in Taipa, is used by the city authorities for Covid-19 compulsory quarantine procedures.
Inbound travellers to Macau coming from outside mainland China are obliged to undergo medical quarantine at selected local hotels, allotted for Macau government use amid the city’s response to the Covid-19 emergency. The length of the compulsory quarantine varies according to the place of origin of each traveller.
The person in the imported case, a 31-year-old Macau resident who returned from Turkey via Singapore on September 18, had been undergoing quarantine at the hotel where the two security guards worked. The workers tested positive after the health authorities required staff of the hotel to go through testing following detection of the imported case.
The areas in Macau where the security guards involved in the two new cases have been living, have been temporarily sealed off to outsiders by the local authorities. No casino facilities are located inside the sealed areas.
Starting on Saturday, anyone wishing to leave Macau is required to submit a certificate issued within 48 hours of departure, showing a ‘negative’ result for Covid-19 infection.
Schools are being temporarily shut from Saturday, and sports and cultural events will also be cancelled, according to authorities.
Authorities in the neighbouring city of Zhuhai, Guangdong province, announced on Saturday that starting from that day, people travelling to Zhuhai from Macau would need to present a certificate issued within 24 hours of departure, showing a ‘negative’ result for Covid-19.
The Zhuhai authorities added that the Covid-19 test rule would be transformed into a requirement for a 14-day compulsory quarantine starting from 6am on Sunday, and in force at least until Wednesday (September 29). The quarantine measure excludes people working either in the logistics industry, funerals sector or in medical services.
The Macau health authorities have also advised the local public to avoid non-essential outbound trips.
Mainland China is the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel bubble with Macau, amid existing travel restrictions as countermeasures against Covid-19. Currently, all people travelling to Macau via a direct flight from the mainland, must hold a ‘negative’ test for Covid-19 issued within seven days prior to their arrival.
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