Macau casinos begin two-week closure

The city’s 41 casinos have closed down for two weeks starting Wednesday 12am, in efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

The decision made by chief executive Ho Iat Seng, comes as Macau announces its tenth confirmed coronavirus case, a 56-year-old casino shuttle bus driver for Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM) who visited Guangzhou in late January. 

The closure extends also to other entertainment venues – as well as Macau Slot outlets and Macau Jockey Club outlets. 

However, the measure is only applicable to gaming areas. The city’s hotels and restaurants will continue to operate. 

The government said the move to close casinos is only a precautionary measure but has nevertheless resulted in panic buying for everything from groceries to medical supplies. Most public transportation options are shut down. 

Seniors officials, including Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng, have been trying to reassure the public that there is no shortage of food and other supplies, but many people have nevertheless raided the markets buying two or three weeks’ worth of edibles.

The suspension of ferry services to Hong Kong created inconveniences for many travelers and commuters. 

It is understood that this action was taken by the government of Hong Kong without any consultation with the Macanese authorities. The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge is the only remaining link between the two territories.

While casino operators have been asked to maintain their staff on full salary, it is unclear if many of the smaller local firms which do business with the operators can or will do the same, creating economic insecurity for many residents.

There are also cases of Filiipino casino workers, currently visiting their home country, who are now unable to return to Macau at all, putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.