Macao streets empty after casinos shut to fight outbreak

BEIJING (AP) — Streets in the gambling center of Macao were empty Monday after casinos and most other businesses were ordered to close while the Chinese territory near Hong Kong fights a coronavirus outbreak.

Residents were told to stay indoors unless they were buying food or other necessities. Authorities warned anyone violating the rules would be punished.

Casinos were ordered over the weekend to close for at least a week as the number of coronavirus cases in the territory of 700,000 people rose. On Monday, the government reported 59 new cases, bringing the total in the latest outbreak to 1,526.

Macao and Hong Kong are imitating the mainland’s “zero COVID” strategy that aims to isolated every infected person.

Casino gambling is the mainstay of Macao’s economy but it has been devastated by anti-virus travel restrictions.

This week’s order marks the first time since early 2020 at the start of the pandemic that casinos were closed outright, reflecting official urgency about containing the latest outbreak. Restrictions imposed in June limited their workforce to 10% of normal levels.

The government says it plans to test everyone in the city for the virus over the coming week. Bus drivers, people who deliver food and some others were told to be tested every day.

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