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Macau Shuts All Casinos as City’s Worst Outbreak Widens

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(Bloomberg) -- Macau will shut almost all business premises including casinos for a week from Monday as a Covid-19 outbreak in the gambling hub showed few signs of abating.

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Essential services such as water and gas utilities as well as businesses including supermarkets, pharmacies and hotels will remain open, according to a government announcement Saturday.

The measures, which follow multiple rounds of mass testing, return the enclave to its toughest pandemic restrictions. Macau announced on Sunday that it recorded 93 new cases the day before, bringing the total number of infections in the latest outbreak starting June 18 to 1,467.

The latest restrictions include limiting the number of people allowed to enter public markets at one time, a separate statement shows. Service workers including delivery people, security guards and cleaners will need to do PCR tests on a daily basis during the seven-day shutdown. LRT services are suspended, the Macao Light Rapid Transit Corp. said.

Macau had previously closed schools, public venues and entertainment outlets including bars and cinemas. It’s also locked down SJM Holdings Ltd.’s Grand Lisboa casino hotel after a cluster of 13 cases was found linked to the venue, trapping some 500 people inside.

The city, which relies on gaming revenue for 80% of its income and had been avoiding a systematic shutdown of casinos, previously only closed the venues once in February 2020.

Macau is following China’s Covid playbook, relying on mass testing and the confinement of residents to identify and then quash transmission chains. But the policies have left the mainland mired in a cycle of unpredictable, stop-start restrictions that are taking an enormous economic and social toll.

The damage to gaming revenue could extend until September, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysts. “Wary travelers may continue to defer visits in the medium-term even after doors reopen,” they wrote, estimating that gross gaming revenue may only reach 9% of 2019 levels.

The gambling hub has been struggling with a dearth of tourists and slumping revenue as mainland China’s Covid Zero policies discourage travel to the enclave. Beyond the virus, the casino industry’s facing other challenges including a new law that significantly increases government control over operations and Beijing’s crackdown on high-rolling gamblers to curb capital outflow.

(Updates with confirmation of news report throughout.)

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