Macau locks down historic Lisboa hotel after COVID cases discovered

A woman walks past a Bank of China branch next to the Grand Lisboa hotel and casino (R) in Macau, China December 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo/File Photo

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HONG KONG, July 6 (Reuters) – Macau has closed one of the city’s most famous hotels, the Grand Lisboa, after more than a dozen COVID-19 cases were discovered there on Tuesday, infections spiking spreading rapidly in the largest gaming center in the world. .

At least 16 other buildings in the Chinese special administrative region are also under restrictions, with no one allowed to leave or enter.

Authorities reported 146 new infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to more than 1,000 cases since mid-June. More than 14,000 people are in quarantine as the city battles to contain its biggest outbreak since the pandemic began. Macau had been largely COVID-free since an outbreak in October 2021.

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The Grand Lisboa is the second hotel-casino to be closed in recent weeks. Owned by SJM Holdings (0880.HK), which was started by former Macau kingpin Stanley Ho, the Lisboa is one of the city’s best-known landmarks.

Local media showed pictures of the sealed off hotel with people in protective gear and hazmat suits standing outside.

SJM Holdings said it was acting in strict accordance with the government and supported the authorities’ anti-pandemic measures.

“SJM stands united with the whole community in this health crisis and wishes Macau a speedy recovery from the pandemic,” he said in an emailed statement.

While the government has stopped short of imposing a full lockdown, like in Chinese cities like Shanghai, most facilities in Macau are closed and restaurants can only offer takeout.

The more than 600,000 residents of the former Portuguese colony have been told to stay at home where possible and are due to take part in three citywide COVID-19 tests this week. People are also required to take rapid antigen tests in between.

CASINO-DRIVEN ECONOMY

Only casinos in Macau have been allowed to stay open in a bid to provide job security. The government depends on the industry for over 80% of its tax revenue, with most of the population employed directly or indirectly by the casinos.

Although physically open, there are few customers inside and only a small number of staff, with many staff being asked to stay home to comply with the government’s request.

Macau adheres to China’s “zero-COVID” policy which aims to eradicate all epidemics, at almost any cost, going against a global trend of trying to coexist with the virus.

It has an open border with mainland China and its economy depends on the influx of Chinese visitors.

Chinese and Hong Kong stocks fell on Wednesday in response to the continuing COVID crisis.

Macau’s cases remain well below daily infections in other places, including neighboring Hong Kong where they have risen to more than 2,000 a day this month.

However, the densely populated center has only one public hospital, which was stretched even before the COVID-19 outbreak. Authorities have set up a makeshift hospital next to the Las Vegas-style Cotai Strip to help deal with the surge in cases.

Casino revenue is expected to be flat for at least several weeks, analysts said, exacerbating tight cash caused by the impact of more than two years of the pandemic.

Macau released draft rules on Tuesday for the new casino licensing bid ahead of year-end expiration for Wynn Macau (1128.HK), Sands China (1928.HK), MGM China (2282.HK), Galaxy Entertainment (0027.HK) and Melco Resorts and SJM.

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Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Barbara Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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