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Macau to reopen casinos after no new cases of coronavirus are found

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File photo of the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey (Credit: Official website)

Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, will allow casinos to reopen after nearly two weeks with no new cases of coronavirus, officials say. Other venues such as cinemas and nightclubs will remain closed for the time being.

Earlier this month, the region’s chief executive ordered a 15-day closure of the gambling industry after 10 cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Macau. Since then, no new cases have been confirmed, although some people are still being tested.

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng announced Monday that casinos are allowed to reopen on Thursday morning. Casinos which are not fully prepared to reopen can apply for a delay of up to 30 days, the local government said in a statement.

Li Weinong, the secretary for economic affairs and finance, said the distance between gaming tables should be increased and casinos should check people for fever when they enter the venue. Visitors should also be wearing masks, Li said.

Many other public venues in Macau remain closed for the time being. This includes cinemas, theaters, indoor playgrounds, game rooms, internet cafes, bowling alleys, massage parlors, beauty salons, health clubs, fitness centers, bars and nightclubs.

Closing the gambling industry was a drastic move for Macau’s government. About 60% of the region’s economy depends on the casino industry and another 11% on related sectors such as shops, hotels and restaurants.

More than 71,000 people, most of them in China’s Hubei province, have been infected with the new coronavirus, which is officially known as SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19. At least 1,775 people have died of the illness as of Monday morning.

Of the 10 cases in Macau, half have recovered and the other five are in stable condition.

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