Macau is set to reopen its casinos at the weekend after a 12-day shutdown as the city’s coronavirus outbreak showed signs of easing, officials announced Wednesday.

The Chinese gambling hub had closed its casinos for the first time in more than two years as authorities ordered most businesses to shut in an attempt to control the city’s most serious outbreak to date. 

Macau. Photo: konkarampelas via Pixabay.

Casinos normally account for around 80 percent of the Macau government’s income, but the pandemic has hammered the city’s fortunes as it sticks to Beijing’s zero-Covid model.

Officials on Wednesday announced that Macau will gradually reopen starting Saturday, though its borders will stay closed.

Gaming venues can operate “in a limited capacity” and must adhere to stringent anti-epidemic measures, Macau Health Bureau director Alvis Lo said at a briefing.

Rules for casinos and other businesses include thorough sanitation, mask-wearing in public areas and reducing staffing levels by half, Lo said.

An official assessment found casinos’ ventilation systems and cleaning to be compliant, while shopping malls had to remain closed as they fell short, officials added.

Businesses such as cinemas, bars and daycare centres will remain closed as officials voiced concerns about indoor ventilation.

Share prices of Macau’s gaming conglomerates plunged at the start of the lockdown on July 11 but have largely held steady since.

The last time Macau’s casinos had to shut their doors was during an unprecedented 15-day closure in February 2020.

Covid-19 under an electron microscope. File photo: NIAID-RML.

HSBC Global Research analysts said on Monday that Macau’s gaming sector is not likely to see a recovery until the fourth quarter of this year. 

On Wednesday, officials also said Macau’s population of 600,000 will need to undergo another round of compulsory testing near the end of July.

The city on Wednesday reported 18 new cases, bringing the total of infections in the latest outbreak to 1,783.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.