Macau spares casinos from entertainment shutdown

Top News | Jane Cheung 6 Oct 2021

Bars, cinemas, gyms, beauty parlors and karaoke clubs have been closed since midnight in Macau, but not casinos, as the gaming hub deals with another renovation worker diagnosed with Covid-19.

Civil servants have been asked not to go to work until tomorrow, while schools and borders remain closed as a territory-wide testing to hunt possible silent carriers ends today.

A 42-year-old Vietnamese female renovation worker - a colleague of three men confirmed with the Delta infection on Monday - was the latest confirmed case in the cluster. All four had been fully vaccinated with the mainland-made Sinopharm vaccine in Macau.

In Hong Kong, seven imported cases from Pakistan, the Philippines, India, Kenya and Egypt were recorded yesterday. All had been fully inoculated.

Three cases from the Philippines involved domestic helpers being quarantined at designated facilities, including two in Penny's Bay and one in Silka Tsuen Wan hotel.

Sources said a helper who had completed a 21-day quarantine at Silka Tsuen Wan tested preliminary positive. She had been to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay on National Day last Friday and her day off on Sunday. But she has been infected previously and could have tested positive of residual coronavirus.

The Macau cluster, which came to light when a 46-year-old male renovation worker from Zhuhai tested positive, has triggered tension among residents as authorities could not identify his source of infection, according to Macau lawmaker Lei Cheng-i.

But Macau's Covid coordination center yesterday announced a possible connection between the renovation workers and another seven-patient cluster surrounding residents and security guards at a designated quarantine hotel late last month.

Tracing found one of the renovation workers - a 40-year-old Vietnamese man - rode on the same bus on September 24 as one of the infected security guards, a 32-year-old Nepalese who was only confirmed positive the day after.

A spokeswoman from the center said the two were on the bus together for 14 minutes, during which they stood next to each other before the worker took a seat behind the guard.

"Surveillance camera footage showed [the guard] touched a handle on the bus and [the worker] later touched the same handle," she added. She said genetic sequencing found the coronavirus in the two men to be fully identical, suggesting one had infected the other.

The spokeswoman admitted it is difficult to track all passengers on the vehicle as not all of them had bus cards registered under their names. But she said authorities have published the card numbers of those who took the same bus and asked people to check if they were on it.

To reduce the risk of a community outbreak, Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng announced the closure of entertainment venues from midnight yesterday.

Authorities listed 18 indoor sites that need to shut down - such as pubs, theaters, internet bars, snooker and bowling venues - but casinos were not on the list.

However, Casino Oceanus, which two patients had visited, has been closed since yesterday for disinfection.

Macau announced yesterday the suspension of work for civil servants until tomorrow. Departments offering public services are maintaining limited operation.

Thousands of Macau residents flocked to 41 testing centers, most of which saw at least 200 to 300 people waiting in line. At the Venetian Macao testing center, more than 1,300 queued for over two hours.

As of 3pm yesterday, more than 240,000 people from a population of 682,500 had been sampled, with some 120,000 results coming back negative.

One man who recovered overseas tested "extremely weak positive."

Macau is targeting to complete the citywide test - which began at 9pm on Monday - within 48 hours.

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