Macau, the world’s largest gambling hub, began a second day of mass testing for Covid-19 on Monday after dozens of locally transmitted cases were detected over the weekend.
But while most businesses are closed, casinos remain open.
Testing of about 600,000 Macau residents is expected to end on Tuesday. The former Portuguese colony under Chinese rule adheres to China’s strict zero-epidemic policy, aimed at eradicating all outbreaks at any cost.
The Macau government announced in a Facebook post that the casino complex recorded 31 cases on Sunday, ending an eight-month streak without infections.
City officials have begun closing schools, tourist attractions, cultural institutions and all non-essential businesses. The restaurant has been ordered to suspend dine-in service.
Casinos have been allowed to stay open, but analysts say their bottom lines will still suffer as the government has urged residents not to go to entertainment venues.
Macau is completely closed to all tourists except residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Most of them must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival, but some from low-risk areas in mainland China are exempt.
The restrictions have threatened the business model at the heart of Macau’s economy, which has traditionally relied on millions of tourists from mainland China.
Macau casino shares tumbled Monday morning. Sands China led losses, falling more than 8 percent, its biggest drop since March 15. MGM China, Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment, Melco Crown and SJM Holdings fell between 4% and 7%.
The Macau government relies on casinos for more than 80% of its revenue, and most of the population is directly or indirectly employed in the casino industry.
Macau’s chief executive, Ho Iat Seng, said in a statement on the government’s website that the surge in infections came abruptly, with cases spreading rapidly and the source still unknown.
In response to the outbreak in Macau, the neighboring city of Zhuhai in southern Guangdong province — where many Macau residents live and work — imposed a mandatory seven-day quarantine on anyone arriving from the gambling hub.