HONG KONG: Macau is set to begin another working week of partial lockdown, after the city extended the closure of its casinos and non-essential businesses to try and eradicate its worst coronavirus outbreak yet.

Authorities had announced a week of “static management” starting June 11 after recording more than 1,500 infections in the previous three weeks despite multiple rounds of compulsory mass testing of the city’s population.

The restrictions had been due to lift on Monday, but cases have continued to climb, with the Macau government saying there had been 1,733 cases recorded since the start of the outbreak. Daily case numbers are comparatively small by global standards, but authorities have moved quickly to stamp out transmission as they adhere to mainland China’s strict zero-Covid policy.

On Saturday the government announced that the “static management” period would be extended through Friday.

All residents have to stay home except to go shopping for daily necessities and to get tested for the virus, with rule-breakers facing up to two years in jail.

Some public services and businesses such as supermarkets and pharmacies are allowed to stay open, but casinos — which in normal times account for around 80 percent of government revenue — need to keep their doors closed.

Macau hosts a casino industry bigger than that of Las Vegas, generating more than half the city’s gross domestic product and employing nearly one-fifth of the population.

The only city in China where casino gambling is permitted, Macau has seen its vital tourism revenues wiped out by some of the world’s harshest measures to tackle the virus — including tough border controls, weeks-long quarantines and targeted lockdowns.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has also seen increased scrutiny of big-spending gamblers and corrupt officials who might travel to Macau to launder money.

Macau residents may face further economic woes after city officials declared that employers are not obligated to pay workers during the Covid-related shutdown.

China reports 691 new cases

Mainland China reported 691 new Covid-19 cases, of which 154 were symptomatic and 537 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.

That compares with 547 new cases a day earlier — 129 symptomatic and 418 asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately. Among the new cases, 580 were locally transmitted, the highest since May 23. Most were discovered in Guangxi and Gansu.

Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu, announced on Sunday that its main city districts would extend a temporary lockdown by another seven days to July 24.

The southwestern city of Chengdu, which reported 7 local cases on Sunday as of 4pm (0800 GMT), closed some of the entertainment businesses such as bars and karaoke sites and rolled out capacity limits at restaurants, cinemas and gyms.

A negative Covid test result within the 48 hours will also be required for people to leave the city from 6pm on Monday, the local government said. China’s capital, Beijing, reported another day of no new infections.

The financial hub of Shanghai reported 26 new local cases for Saturday, with one case found outside of quarantined areas, according to the local government.

As of Saturday, mainland China had confirmed 227,426 cases. China reported no new Covid deaths, leaving the death toll to 5,226.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2022

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