Posted on: July 20, 2022, 09:19h. 

Last updated on: July 20, 2022, 11:53h.

Macau casinos are set to reopen this Saturday, July 23. That’s after being forced to cease their gaming and resort operations for more than a week because of the region’s worst COVID-19 outbreak to date.

Macau casinos gambling China zero COVID
Macau’s urban area meets the glitzy casino resorts standing tall downtown over the region. Casinos will begin reopening in the Chinese enclave this Saturday, July 23. (Image: The Wall Street Journal)

Casinos, as well as all other nonessential businesses, were ordered shut by the Macau government in order to slow the wild spread of the latest coronavirus variant. The Chinese enclave has counted over 1,700 infections over the past 30 days. But health officials say the recent lockdown has been a success.

With daily new cases greatly slowing — the region confirmed only six additional positive infections yesterday — Macau says it’s time to reopen its gaming industry. Casinos are the Special Administrative Region’s economic lifeline and employ around 60,000 people.

Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng said today that casinos are essential to the SAR’s livelihood, and therefore warrant being among the first businesses permitted to reopen. Casinos have been notified that they can begin reopening their facilities at the stroke of midnight on July 23.

While casinos will reopen this weekend, movie theaters, gyms, karaoke joints, bars, nightclubs, and swimming pools will remain closed for the time being. Restaurants are only permitted to offer takeout and delivery services.

Policy Easing

China has faced criticism from other global superpowers for its “zero COVID” policy. The program requires that cities and provinces take drastic steps to contain COVID-19 outbreaks. That includes, upon detection, greatly limiting activities of normal life by imposing strict lockdowns and travel bans.

“Zero COVID” has been blamed for much of the world’s ongoing supply chain disruptions. Macau, being one of two SARs of the People’s Republic that adheres to China’s “one country, two systems” principle, has subsequently obeyed the mainland’s “zero COVID” approach.

The “one country, two systems” code generally means that Macau is a self-governing autonomous region that can determine most of its own local laws. But when it comes to national security measures, as well as international affairs such as a global pandemic, Macau generally looks to Beijing.

However, yesterday Macau officials began hinting that the SAR is amending its “zero COVID” policy to allow life to carry on despite ongoing pandemic issues. The Macau Health Bureau says there are nearly 500 individuals who are still considered to be actively infected with the virus.

Zeroing Out ‘Zero COVID’

Macau measures just 45.5 square miles. With hundreds of active COVID-19 infections in the region — though those patients are in isolation — Macau readying to reopen non-essential businesses seems to contradict China’s “zero COVID” strategy.

The World Health Organization, which itself has been criticized for its handling of the pandemic, has scolded China’s “zero COVID” policy for being overly draconian and unnecessary.

It appears China at long last is slowly beginning to ease the policy. Health officials in the People’s Republic say the country is moving towards a “containment” or “consolidation” phase.

The next pandemic response phase, Macau’s chief medical advisor to the SAR’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center said yesterday, will allow life to continue in the wake of new outbreaks. The progression could only come, Dr. Leong Iek Hou explained, after the region and the Chinese population became more fully vaccinated in order to limit the virus’ impact.