Macau casinos to reopen after virus ban lifted

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 18 2020 05:09 PM

Men wear masks as they walk in front of the Ruins of St. Paul’s, following the coronavirus outbreak in Macau, China Feb. 5, 2020. Tyrone Siu, Reuters

MACAU - Macau's casinos will reopen Thursday after authorities lifted a city-wide two-week closure aimed at stopping the spread of the deadly new coronavirus. 

The resumption of the lynchpin industry comes after the city reported no new infections in the last two weeks, with the number confirmed cases at just ten people.

The former Portuguese colony took the unprecedented step of shutting down almost all of its lucrative entertainment sector earlier in the month, including casinos, nightclubs and many bars.

The vast majority of Macau's tourists are mainland Chinese travellers, drawn to the city's casinos. 

As the only place in China where casinos are allowed, Macau's gambling houses account for about 80 percent of government revenue.

But arrivals tanked as the epidemic spread.

Authorities said casinos that don't want to reopen because of low tourist numbers could apply to extend the closure, but they must be up and running within 30 days.

Macau's government has been keen to ensure the casinos keep employing staff through the downturn and are trying to avoid lay-offs.

Officials said all gamblers and casino staff must wear face masks.

First found in the city of Wuhan in central China, the new coronavirus has infected over 72,000 people on the mainland and 60 in Hong Kong. 

It has also taken over 1,800 lives on the mainland and one in Hong Kong.