Macau’s 41 casinos will be closed for 15 days starting Tuesday midnight, the government said at its daily press conference about the novel coronavirus this Tuesday afternoon.
Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong confirmed the timing of the measure announced by Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng four hours before. Lei announced the midnight deadline after a meeting with executives from Macau’s six gaming operators (SJM, Sands, Melco, Wynn, Galaxy, MGM).
Lei said the drastic measure aimed to prevent the further spread of the Wuhan virus. The Jockey Club will also close for two weeks.
Macau’s gaming industry employs some 57,000 people full-time and generates abut three-quarters of the government’s income. The government’s financial reserves exceed 600 billion patacas. There is virtually no public debt in Macau, according to official statistics.
Macau’s gaming industry was licensed by its then Portuguese rulers in the mid-19thy century.
According to Lei, bars, theatres, Internet cafes, discotheques, night clubs and similar businesses will also close at midnight for 15 days. Cinemas stopped their screenings late last month already.
The policy secretary also said that the gaming operators pledged not to force any of their employees to take unpaid holidays and keep paying their salaries.
Lei urged the public to “stay positive” and avoid panic reactions.
According to local news reports, supermarkets recorded a marked increase in shoppers after Ho’s announcement at 1 p.m. During his press conference, Ho had assured Macau’s 680,000 population that the 33-sq-km city’s shops and markets have “sufficient” foodstuffs. Macau has no farming.
Macau confirmed two more novel coronavirus cases today, bringing the total to 10.
The Macau government has said it will buy 20 million facemasks that will be sold to local residents and non-resident (imported) workers at the fixed prices of 8 patacas (US$1) for 10 facemasks every 10 days.