Posted on: December 26, 2022, 01:18h. 

Last updated on: December 26, 2022, 03:18h.

China’s COVID-19 protocols being lifted recently has resulted in a massive outbreak of infections across the mainland and in the People’s Republic’s two Special Administrative Regions of Macau and Hong Kong.

COVID-19 China Macau casino
Chinese tourists visit Macau and the Cotai Strip outside The Parisian on Dec. 24, 2022. COVID-19 is spreading quickly across mainland China and the country’s Special Administrative Region of Macau. (Image: Bloomberg)

Macau casinos eagerly awaited China’s easing of its pandemic response measures for almost three years, most specifically the lifting of Beijing’s “zero-COVID.” With Macau’s borders as open as they’ve been since the coronavirus’ onset in China in December 2019, the region’s casinos are optimistic for a business rebound.

But China’s compromised herd immunity is reportedly allowing the virus to run rampant throughout mainland China and its regions and territories.

Inside Asian Gaming reported yesterday that an estimated one in two casino workers in Macau has become infected with COVID-19. That’s since China began easing “zero-COVID” earlier this month. Beijing’s lifting of “zero-COVID” came after widespread protests of the country’s pursuit efforts to fully eliminate the virus from China.

Holidays Ho-Hum

Though Christmas isn’t traditionally celebrated in China, the holiday has been embraced in recent decades in the mainland. Today, it’s typical for many Chinese people to celebrate Christmas — though not as a religious or holy day, but instead as a commercial holiday.

In the years before the pandemic, Macau casinos were busy during the Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s holidays. But Inside Asian Gaming says COVID-19’s spread rendered the casino resorts nearly lifeless over this past weekend.

Local estimates currently put the spread at about 50% of the Macau population. About one in two casino workers are said to be currently infected or recently infected by the coronavirus.

As a result, Macau casinos were quiet over Christmas.

IAG visited the Cotai Strip on Saturday and found the crowds to be very light. The famous Venetian retail shopping mall was very poorly patronized, with some restaurants closed due to staff infection,” the media outlet said.

“The same was true for commercial venues on the Macau peninsula, with some shops in the One Central mall next to MGM Macau having to close due to staff infection,” IAG journalist Pierce Chan added.

January Rebound?

Despite high COVID-19 case counts, local officials believe once the population fends off an infection round, life will more return to normal. In that scenario, more residents begin to feel comfortable venturing out in the public. The imminent goal is to prevent as much loss of life as possible.

It will be no easy task, as the virus rages on. Radio Free Asia, citing a leaked government document, said over the weekend that almost 250 million people in China are likely infected with COVID-19.

The leaked document reportedly came from China’s National Health Commission, which said 248 million have the virus. If those numbers are accurate, international health experts say about 5,000 deaths a day would be expected in the country.

Data is “impossible to track,” the National Health Commission reportedly added, after China did away with mandatory mass testing rounds in wake of new infections.

The considerable COVID-19 spread — about two in 10 mainland Chinese residents are said to have the virus at present — has caused some worry among the populace.

“There is now a massive infection, and it’s happening so fast that the public is even fearful, which seems to be more than anyone expected. We can only hope for a real recovery in the second half of January, once the people of Macau have become accustomed to living with the virus,” a local gaming industry rep told IAG.