Casino hub Macau launches third round of COVID-19 testing as infections rise

People queue for COVID-19 testing in Macau, China, June 20, 2022. REUTERS

HONG KONG — Macau launched a third round of mandatory COVID-19 testing for its more than 600,000 residents on Monday, in a push to curb a rise in infections in the world’s biggest gambling hub.

Authorities in Macau have locked down multiple buildings and put more than 5,000 people in quarantine in the past few days, the city’s government said. Health authorities said 38 new COVID cases were recorded on Sunday, taking the total number of infections to 299 in the latest outbreak.

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Two rounds of COVID tests were conducted in Macau in the past week. The latest round is expected to end on Tuesday.

Authorities have asked people to remain at home as much as possible with most of the city effectively closed, including bars, hair salons and outdoor parks. Only takeaway is allowed from dining facilities.

Casinos, while mostly deserted, are allowed to stay open, the city’s government said, in a move to protect local jobs.

The stringent measures come after the Chinese 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 Omicron variant.

Macau adheres to China’s “zero COVID” policy which aims to eradicate all outbreaks, at just about any cost, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.