City government

Macau casino center launches third round of COVID tests as infections rise

People line up for COVID-19 tests in Macau, China June 20, 2022. REUTERS/John Mak

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HONG KONG, June 27 (Reuters) – Macau on Monday launched a third round of mandatory COVID-19 testing for its more than 600,000 residents, in a bid to curb rising infections at the world’s biggest gambling hub.

Macau authorities have locked down several buildings and quarantined more than 5,000 people in recent days, the city government said. Health authorities said 38 new COVID cases were recorded on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 299 during the latest outbreak.

Two rounds of COVID tests were conducted in Macau last week. The last round should end on Tuesday.

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Authorities have asked people to stay at home as much as possible, with most of the city effectively closed, including bars, hair salons and outdoor parks. Only take-out food is allowed in restaurants. Read more

Casinos, though mostly deserted, are allowed to remain open, the city government said, in an effort to protect local jobs.

The strict measures come after China’s special administrative region has been largely COVID-free since an outbreak in October 2021. It has not previously had to deal with the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.

Macau adheres to China’s “zero COVID” policy which aims to eradicate all epidemics, pretty much at any cost, going against a global trend of trying to coexist with the virus.

Macau’s cases are still well below daily infections in other places, including neighboring Hong Kong where cases have risen to nearly 2,000 a day this month.

Hong Kong’s outbreak this year has seen more than a million confirmed infections and more than 9,000 deaths, overwhelming hospitals and public services. The authorities are seeking to relax some restrictions.

Macau has only one public hospital with its services already expanding daily. The territory’s rapid plan to test its population comes as it keeps the border with mainland China open, with many residents living and working in the nearby city of Zhuhai.

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Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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