Addressing Tuesday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus situation, Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong said that Macau’s 41 casinos will be closed for 15 days starting from Wednesday onward – In fact, they had shut their doors by midnight.
Lei made the remarks at the Health Bureau (SSM) next to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, four hours after Chief Executive Ho IatSeng announced during a special press conference at lunchtime that Macau will close all its casinos initially for half a month, after the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases rose from 8 to 10 on Tuesday.
According to Lei, in addition to casinos other entertainment venues will also close for 15 days.
According to Lei, the Macau Slot outlets and the Macau Jockey Club (MJC) will also close during the 15-day period.
Lei said that during a meeting with Ho and other related officials, executives from the city’s six gaming operators (SJM, Wynn, Galaxy, Venetian, MGM and Melco) promised not to force any of their employees to take unpaid holidays, and to keep paying salaries to those who will not need to work due to the casino closure measure.
“This reflects the joint efforts of employers and workers in facing the epidemic,” the policy secretary said.
According to Lei, the 15-day closure of the casinos involves some 40,000 employees. The six gaming operators have reaffirmed that they will keep paying their salaries, Lei said.
“We should not be blindly optimistic, nor should we panic and be pessimistic,” Lei said, calling for joint efforts by civil society to fight against the epidemic.
According to the website of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), the 41 casinos comprise 22 owned by SJM, six by Galaxy, five by the Venetian, four by Melco, and two each by Wynn and MGM. However, the operations of two casinos owned by SJM are currently suspended, according to the website.
According to the Statistics and Census Bureau (DSEC), the gaming sector employed 57,840 people full-time at the end of the second quarter of last year (the latest official data available), including 25,213 dealers (croupiers).
Hotels & restaurants to stay open
According to Lei, the casino closure measure is only applicable to gaming areas of the city’s integrated casino-hotel resorts, while its hotels and restaurants will keep operating. “Some tourists are still staying in hotels [of casino resorts],” Lei said, adding that the measure was sufficient for the time being based on the government’s risk assessment for Macau’s current novel coronavirus threat.
Asked about the estimated economic loss due to the casino closure, Lei replied that gaming receipts would definitely be zero during the 15-day period, reaffirming that the government’s top priority was residents and tourists’ safety.
“We can make money [in the future] in order to recover the loss [resulting from the novel coronavirus situation], and the personal safety of tourists and residents definitely ranks number one,” Lei said.
‘Very sufficient’ food supply
During Tuesday’s press conference, Lei repeatedly reaffirmed that Macau has “very sufficient” food supplies and urged residents not to rush to buy fresh foodstuff and packaged food. Lei said that residents’ panic buying would result in a short-term supply and demand imbalance of foodstuff in the market, which in turn would cause food prices to rise.
Lei also said that residents’ hoarding would adversely affect the city’s ongoing fight against the epidemic as it meant that supermarkets would have large crowds of people gathering there, which would increase the risk of cross-infection. “If you are unable to buy [food] today, just buy it tomorrow. The government ensures that everyone can always buy food [that they need], please be reassured,” Lei said.
Lei also underlined that fresh food quickly goes bad and packaged food expires.
Also addressing the press conference, Municipal Affairs Bureau (IAM) President José Maria da Fonseca Tavares said that Nam Kwong and Nam Yue –Macau’s two major fresh food suppliers from the mainland – would always ensure Macau’s stable fresh food supply.
Gaming operators pledge to provide temporary accommodation in Macau for non-resident workers.
Lei also said that the government agrees with a proposal submitted by five of the city’s six gaming operators to provide temporary accommodation in Macau for non-resident workers who live in Zhuhai, or to arrange for them to remain in Zhuhai for the time being.
Lei said that the 6th gaming company was yet to submit necessary additional information about its accommodation proposal before the government could approve it. He did not name the operator.
During the government’s press conference about the virus crisis on Sunday, Lei said that the local government was urging local employers to arrange temporary accommodation in Macau for non-resident workers who commute between Macau and Zhuhai and whose continued work here is essential for their business operations so that they won’t need to commute between the two cities during the current virus threat. For those non-resident workers whose work is not essential at the moment.
Lei said that the local government was urging their employers to arrange for them to remain in Zhuhai for the time being and not to come back Macau to work until the coronavirus epidemic subsides.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Lei did not elaborate on the six gaming operators’ proposals. Lei merely said that one of the six gaming operators’ proposals states that it will arrange for 300 employees to stay in Macau and for 3,000 employees to remain in Zhuhai. Lei was quick to add that many of the 300 employees are local residents.
Lei also revealed that the China Capital Employment Agencies Association (Macau) – an association of agencies hiring workers from the mainland – has so far arranged accommodation in local hotels for some 2,000 non-resident workers who are not employed by the city’s gaming operators.
Lei also said that the local authorities will strengthen their operations to deal with parallel traders operating between Macau and Zhuhai, so as to reduce the risk of cross coronavirus infection caused by the high flow of people crossing the border.
Chio Song Un, who heads the Planning and Operations Department of the Public Security Police (PSP), said that the police were still looking for 52 Hubei residents who were still in Macau.
Chio said that in an attempt to find them, the Public Security Police and the Judiciary Police (PJ) have strengthened their operations to combat illegal inns.
Chio said that in an operation on Monday, the police found two Hubei non-resident workers in a residential flat used as a dormitory for non-resident workers, and both agreed to be transferred to the hotel – the Pousada Marina Infante in Cotai – used as a quarantine facility for Hubei residents in Macau.
Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in December, is the capital city of Hubei province.