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Macau locks down some buildings as COVID infections rise

June 24 (Reuters) – Authorities in Macau have locked down several residential buildings as the world’s largest gaming hub tries to stem a rising number of COVID-19 cases that have brought the city to a standstill, save for casinos, which are mostly open stay.

The former Portuguese colony on Friday reported 39 new infections, bringing the total for the current outbreak to 149, with around a dozen buildings locked down and residents forbidden from leaving, the local government said in a statement.

More than 5,000 people are in mandatory quarantine, the government said.

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Macau, a Chinese special administrative region, is testing its more than 600,000 residents for the corona virus for the second time this week. The tests should be completed on Friday.

A makeshift hospital next to Macau’s Las Vegas-style Cotai Strip is also slated to open on Friday.

Macau closed most of its city on Thursday, including bars, cinemas, hair salons and outdoor parks. Only takeaway food is allowed from catering establishments. Continue reading

The strict measures come after Macau has been largely COVID-free since an outbreak in October 2021. It didn’t previously have to deal with the highly transmittable Omicron variant.

Macau adheres to China’s “zero-COVID” policy, which aims to eradicate all outbreaks at all costs, bucking a global trend to co-exist with the virus.

Casino revenue is likely to be close to zero in the coming weeks, analysts said. Only one of the territory’s more than 30 casinos has been closed as an anti-COVID measure, but the others have few customers, local residents said.

Cases in Macau are still well below daily infections elsewhere, including neighboring Hong Kong, where cases have risen to over 1,000 a day this month.

The outbreak in Hong Kong this year has seen more than 1 million confirmed infections and more than 9,000 deaths, swamping hospitals and public services. Officials there are trying to relax some restrictions.

Macau has only one public hospital, and its services are already busy on a daily basis. The territory’s swift plan to test its entire population comes as it keeps the border with mainland China open and many residents live and work in the adjacent city of Zhuhai.

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Reporting by Farah Master; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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