With Covid-19 cases rising daily, Macau authorities had to introduce new measures to manage the infection surge in the biggest gambling hub in the world. Among other measures, two hotels that operate as part of casino resorts were turned into Covid-19 medical facilities to increase the capacity necessary to handle new patients.
The two new facilities added are the Grand Lisboa Palace (east wing only) and the Grand Hyatt. Two hotels will increase the overall quarantine capacity by almost 800 rooms. Two other properties, Londoner Resort and Hyatt Hotel, owned by Sands China, have both already been used for quarantine purposes.
These actions were taken amid the latest rise in the number of infections. On Friday, the authorities reported 88 new cases. Since mid-June, there have been a total of Covid-positive patients is 1,303. At the moment, more than 17,000 are being quarantined. Furthermore, in an effort to control the latest surge, 22 residential buildings on the peninsula have been put under lockdown by the local authorities.
Among those is the Grand Lisboa hotel, situated on Macau casinos main peninsula. The landmark property was sealed for five days with more than 500 people inside after the positive cases were identified within the facility. Right now, the local government is conducting the sixth round of citywide testing .
One of the reasons for turning China casino hotels and resorts into quarantine centers is the fact that the city has only one public hospital. With 600,000 residents, Macau’s healthcare system was already feeling severe pressure even before the latest Covid outbreak. To deal with the situation, the authorities have set up a temporary hospital in the sports arena near the Cotai strip. In addition, over 600 medical workers have arrived from mainland China to assist the locals.
As more than 90% of the local population is vaccinated, this marks the first time Macau is facing the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus. When it comes to dealing with the virus, Macau follows China’s “zero-Covid” policy. This means that the goal is to suppress the outbreaks at any price. This is quite different from the global trends in fighting Covid that try to establish normal living conditions while co-existing with the virus.
So far, Macau hasn’t gone under the full lockdown seen in most mainland China cities like Hong Kong and Beijing affected by the virus. However, with most facilities closed, life has come almost to a full stop. The government has asked the locals to remain in their homes, the public transport has been significantly reduced, and restaurants only provide takeaway services.
The rumors of impending lockdown are still spreading across the cities. Despite government denial of the impending lockdown, residents have still stormed local stores and markets to stock on food and other groceries. Furthermore, the locals are rather unsatisfied and frustrated with the way the authorities are handling the outbreak.
Accessing healthcare facilities often requires standing in a queue for more than 20 hours. Plus, many residents are eager and desperate to get back to work. At the moment, the casinos are still open, so the employees can keep their jobs, but the owners warn that the lack of business might make the situation untenable. Most of the locals have jobs directly or indirectly tied to the casino industry, which brings more than 80% of government revenue.