Macau not in the clear after Covid traces found

Macau, Health Bureau
Macau coronavirus response team press conference

Authorities in Macau say that the scare over a new outbreak is not yet over, after they found traces of coronavirus in eight samples taken from locations where four infected individuals had been.

None of the locations where samples were gathered were located inside of the city’s integrated resorts.

Authorities collected over 100 samples from the individuals’ residence, vehicle, workplace and other locations, but warned on Monday that traces of the virus could still be present. This comes as health officials are contacting nearly 150 people who rode on the same buses as one of the infected patients – aiming to test all of them as quickly as possible.

Macau’s mass testing campaign ended on Saturday, with authorities saying that none of the 716,251 samples gathered came back positive for coronavirus.

Individuals who did not get tested in the mass campaign have had their Health Code changed to yellow, meaning they can’t access public transportation, public spaces or casinos. As of Monday, some 4,700 people had been assigned Yellow health codes, only half of whom the Health Bureau was able to contact. Some 55 people have outright refused to take the test, and police are going to be sent to their residences to take them to get tested. If they refuse this testing they will either voluntarily be placed into quarantine or be subject to forced quarantine by authorities for 14 days.

A second mass testing regime is still a possibility, depending on the outcome of the current testing and results from individuals still confined in the Red Zone – who will only be allowed to leave the area on August 17th, if no new cases are detected.

Macau authorities have also announced that they will be cancelling all local tours under its “Stay, Dine and See Macao” project, aimed at incentivising local tourism. All tours until August 17th will be cancelled, affecting about 4,700 people. The program had helped drive up hotel occupancy in recent months, offering a discount for locals on hospitality and F&B offerings.

After the four new cases were found, breaking Macau’s record of nearly 500 days without local infections, analysts have pushed back estimates, predicting Macau’s recovery could only start in the final months of the year. Morningstar has also slashed its gross gaming revenue  estimate for 2021 to 42 percent of pre-pandemic levels, with 2022 gross gaming revenue estimates at 85 to 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Amongst the delayed recovery, insiders say that non-paid leave schemes put in place by operators are now being prolonged or expanded to include more employees. Operators have been given a clear signal by the government that they should retain their local staff, causing them to pursue non-paid leave or voluntary holiday schemes – measures which are now expected to stretch into the fourth quarter.