Macau is deploying “immediate pandemic prevention” protocols after a local family of four tested positive for COVID-19 — the special administrative region’s (SAR) first documented transmissions of the virus in 500 days.
Authorities in the world’s largest casino center believe the original case was transmitted by a daughter in the family after she traveled from the SAR to Zhuhai in Guangdong province on July 19 and then on to Xi’an. She returned to Macau on July 25.
The case is being classified as imported as are the two cases involving her mother and father. The fourth family member is believed to be the couple’s son. The daughter reportedly infected her family upon returning to Macau on July 25. Although neither her parents nor brother work in a gaming venue, they’ve been circulating throughout the enclave until today.
With officials fretting about the possibilities of a severe outbreak, Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng moved the SAR under “immediate prevention” protocols. Those include requiring any resident leaving the SAR to show a negative nucleic acid test that’s no more than 24 hours old.
Officials say none of the four family members entered a Macau gaming venue during the July 19 through July 25 period.
In a note out today, research firm Bernstein said it’s “unlikely” any of the SAR’s casinos will be temporarily shuttered “unless there is a widespread outbreak.” That echoes a similar refrain from the analysts published last week in which they state another shutdown of Macau casinos is a last resort option.
The SAR’s gaming venues were closed for 15 days in February 2020. It’s estimated that the coronavirus shutdown cost the six concessionaires a combined $100 million per day. With gaming accounting for 80 percent of tax receipts and 25 percent of local employment, Macau policymakers are incentivized to keep casinos open, particularly with gross gaming revenue (GGR) finally trending the right way.
The Novel Coronavirus Coordination and Response Centre said today the new wave of coronavirus cases on mainland China involves the delta variant. The agency is urging Macau residents to avoid travel to the mainland if it involves going beyond Guangdong.
The SAR’s tourism agency is renewing inspections of integrated resorts to ensure the venues’ pandemic prevention protocols are adequate.
Risks Linger for Macau Casinos
While Macau hasn’t reported a COVID-19 fatality, considerable risks remain for concessionaires, particularly if the SAR endures another outbreak.
In the case of the aforementioned family, a three-building area in which they live is now considered a “red zone” and five neighboring buildings are under “yellow zone” meaning residents can’t leave until negative coronavirus tests come back and the buildings are being monitored by police.
That’s relevant to Macau casino operators because while officials don’t want to revisit a full scale gaming shutdown, it’s possible that if red and yellow zones become prominent themes, some of those cordoned off areas will include gaming properties.
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