The government of Macau has imposed stricter measures due to a surge of COVID cases in the world’s largest gaming hub. According to the latest local reports, officials have allegedly requested casino operators —the only large businesses allowed to remain open— to reduce on-duty staff by 90%.
The latest measures come as Macau faces an unprecedented outbreak, its largest since the beginning of the pandemic. The directive from the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau comes amid a third mass testing this week, totaling six since the surge of cases two weeks ago.
The latest directive implies casino operators may have to reduce their staff temporarily from July 1 to July 8. Additionally, local media reports that some companies have already placed several of their employees on unpaid leave, with some periods lasting up to two weeks. Meanwhile, others have been encouraged to take leaves with 50% pay of their salary under relevant operator schemes, reports Macau Daily News.
The latest measure comes after the Macao Federation of Trade Unions (FAOM) announced in a statement last week that casino employees were being required to undergo a mandatory nucleic acid test (NAT) every 48 hours, as well as a daily mandatory rapid antigen test (RAT), and use KN95 masks in their workplace as measures against Covid-19.
Information from the city’s statistics bureau noted last month that most of those who are unemployed and searching for new jobs were previously engaged in gaming and junket activities and in the construction sector. The new measures could deliver a further blow to the sector and its employees, which are already under turmoil.
Furthermore, a report issued by Macau’s health authorities in June revealed that they will start requiring all people wishing to enter the city’s casinos to have their body temperature measured and to display a health-declaration statement, as well as a certificate of a valid nucleic acid test issued within the previous 48 hours, in order to prove they are free from any COVID-19 infection.
Macau’s gaming regulator also issued a statement at the time urging the city’s casino operators to strictly comply with the prevention guidelines set out by the health authorities. While many sectors were forced to close operations in the last weeks, the gaming industry has thus far avoided such fate.
Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng
Last month, Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng said officials would only close individual venues if Covid patients are found to have entered the gaming areas during a specific period. The gaming sector employs the bulk of the local workforce, which puts pressure on officials to avoid a shutdown.
On Tuesday afternoon, local media reported that the public entrances at the Grand Lisboa casino resort were sealed. People in biohazard suits could be seen in front of the SJM Holdings Ltd venue, seemingly due to positive cases linked to the property.