in confined Macau, the casinos lower the curtain
After mainland China and Hong Kong, the authorities of the former Portuguese colony (1) have aligned themselves, since July 11, with the draconian policy of « zero Covid »: this consists of confining and massively testing the population as soon as a few cases appear, in the hope of stemming the epidemic. As the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, reaching 1,700 cases this week, Macau has entered its second week of lockdown for at least another five days.
« It’s hard for the elderly »
“The authorities have asked us to stay at home, except to go to the supermarket punctually, and we must get tested regularly,” says Philip Yun, a social worker engaged in a local NGO working with the elderly.
Originally from Hong Kong but living for more than twenty years in Macau with his family, Philip is not surprised at all. “I was wondering when political leaders in Macau would decide to follow the restrictions already imposed for a long time in Hong Kong and on the mainland, he said. It was bound to happen and we anticipated a little, but it’s hard for all the elderly people who can’t leave their homes and to whom we bring meals and basic necessities. »
“A social disaster for young casino employees”
Some public services and businesses, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, are allowed to remain open. But casinos – which in normal times account for around 80% of Macau’s government revenue, half of its gross domestic product and employ one in five residents – must remain closed. Last week, authorities began by rolling down the curtain on one of Macau’s most notorious casinos, Grand Lisboa, locking more than 500 people inside after discovering 13 infections linked to the venue.
For this sector, whose activity is even greater than that of Las Vegas, this is the first confinement in more than two years. This measure puts an end to an agreement between the local government and the casinos providing that only establishments where cases of Covid would be discovered would be temporarily closed.
Since last week, the six groups in the gaming sector – Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holdings, Melco International, MGM China and Wynn Macau – have seen their share prices tumble 6-9% in early trading. Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Authorities have announced that employers are not obligated to pay their employees for the duration of the lockdown. « It’s going to be a social disaster for all the young employees of the casinos, worries a local trade unionist who declined to be named, because they will not be paid at all while waiting for an uncertain reopening. »
Increased monitoring of spenders
Macau is the only place in China where casinos are allowed. The pandemic has hit hard this manna of the semi-autonomous region which has adopted a “zero Covid” strategy similar to that of Beijing.
Macau has seen its tourism revenue wiped out by the harsh measures imposed to combat the spread of Covid-19. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has also led to increased scrutiny of spendthrift gamblers and corrupt officials who may travel to Macau to launder money.