With shutters being drawn at 12:01 a.m. Monday, morning all Macau casinos and other non-essential businesses have been forced to close for 7 days to help authorities stem an outbreak of Covid-19 that was first announced on June 19. If authorities are able to contain the outbreak in the specified seven-day ‘temporary’ shutdown window it will be one month since the first cases were publicly reported.
The city of 600,000 and a single hospital that is overstressed daily has set up temporary medical facilities should the outbreak worsen significantly and has commandeered or negotiated arrangements with hoteliers who have already begun using their properties as quarantine centers.
Hotels other than those directly closed by the public health emergency are allowed to stay open as are other essential businesses such as supermarkets, small markets, and restaurants. However, restaurants are not open for dining in and will only accept take-out orders.
Authorities have asked residents to avoid going out unless it is essential they do so.
The announcement of casino and other business closures was made at a press conference by the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre on Saturday.
Not Exactly a Lockdown
André Cheong Weng Chon, Macau’s Secretary for Administration and Justice, balanced the gravity of the issue by stating that people and businesses violating the measure could face charges. He also said: “This is not exactly a lockdown, we are not banning people from going out. But we hope that with the cooperation from business venues and with the support from the public, foot traffic in our community can be reduced to a minimum,” according to a report in GGRAsia.
Hotels large and small throughout the city, primarily in Cotai are cooperating with the government to sequester those who are or may have been exposed. The smallest known property so far is the 70-room Rocks Hotel at Macau Fisherman’s Wharf. It will be used to house people coded “yellow” for medical observation.
The Cotai “Strip” sits on a 2 square-mile section of manmade land between Taipa and Coloane islands on Seac Pai Bay to the east of Macau, but is considered part of the Special Administrative Region and ultimately under the control of China.
Nearly 500 rooms in the east wing of Grand Lisboa Palace at Cotai have been added as well as 300 rooms in a single tower at City of Dreams Grand Hyatt Macau – also Cotai.
Other large-scale properties already in use as quarantine centers include both towers of the Sheraton Grand Macao at Londoner Macao (formerly Sand Cotai) where an outbreak was reported in a small section of the mall there earlier. The second Sands property in Cotai to be requisitioned is the 2,300-room Parisian Macao hotel.
The original Grand Lisboa was locked down on July 11th after gamblers were allowed to leave. About 500 staff, guests, and residents are still on “red” lockdown there.
Workers Adjusting but Concerned
Life and obligations for casino workers don’t simply stop when their employers help the government comply with infectious disease policy. According to a separate report in GGRAsia, most workers are willing to accept the compensation given when they are forced to stay away from work. In general, this includes an extra day of paid leave for every seven days of forced leave, regardless of compensation for the base week.
Operators have been offering a variety of compensation incentives to workers due to the uneven nature of tourist flow amid the earlier outbreak and changes in Mainland China policy that has seen visitor numbers fluctuate widely. Some compensation packages kicked in as workers were asked to stay home by the government but the casinos remained open.
Most if not all operators have been facing a revenue crunch with negative quarterly earnings while the numbers in Las Vegas have been breaking records with over a billion dollars a month left on the tables for 15 months in a row.
All of the casinos are operating on provisional temporary licenses with a tender of official 10-year licenses expected to begin in December.
In separate conversations with labor activists Cloee Chao and Stephen Lao Ka Weng, Mr. Lao told GGRAsia, “Many fear that the current rights that they have will diminish someday as their employers have been incessantly burning cash. They are afraid these rights will be gone once the gaming companies secure their new concessions, and they fear they might relive what had happened in 2008 when there were a lot of lay-offs and various labor issues surfaced.”
Source: Macau casinos to close for 7 days from July 11, GGRAsia, July 11, 2022