Due to a surge of Covid cases in the world’s largest gaming hub, Macau authorities have assigned two hotels in casino resorts to be used as medical facilities. The east wing of SJM Holding’s Grand Lisboa Palace, and the Grand Hyatt hotel, owned by Melco Resorts, will together provide about 800 rooms to that end.
“During this time, Grand Lisboa Palace will strictly adhere to the latest government advice and risk-management protocols concerning the wellbeing of all frontline staff,” officials said. “We will constantly update and communicate with the authorities and take every possible measure to safeguard the health and safety of its guests and employees.”
The two hotels join Sands China’s Sheraton hotel and The Londoner resort, which have already been used as quarantine facilities. The announcement comes after the city recorded 88 cases on Friday, taking the total to 1,303 cases since mid-June. As of late, the authorities have informed that more than 17,000 people are in quarantine, and 22 residential buildings have been locked down.
The Grand Lisboa's assignation as a medical facility comes after the hotel was closed down with more than 500 people inside for a minimum of five days because authorities found 13 infections linked to the resort. Officials also locked down three floors of the Shoppes at Four Seasons, a shopping center at Sands China's Plaza Macao, after another cluster was found there.
Furthermore, authorities are in the process of carrying out the sixth round of city-wide mass testing. Macau only has one public hospital for more than 600,000 residents. According to Reuters, the city’s medical system was already stretched prior to the coronavirus outbreak. To deal with the rising medical demand, authorities set up a makeshift hospital in a sports dome near the city's Las Vegas-style Cotai strip and have around 600 medical workers from the mainland assisting them.
More than 90% of Macau's residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but this is the first time the city is grappling with the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant. Macau adheres to China's "zero-COVID" policy that aims to curb all outbreaks.
Although the government has not imposed a strict lockdown as those seen in mainland China, the city’s facilities are shut, and residents have been asked to stay home while restaurants are only working with delivery. Public transport has also been restricted.
The lockdown has sparked concern among residents who flooded food markets and grocery stores on Thursday, in fear that the city would be fully locked down. However, the government denied the allegations and urged residents to keep calm and not hoard food, as reported by Reuters.
However, frustration grows in the city, as some residents report that they have had to queue for more than 20 hours in order to access healthcare facilities, and many are desperate to go back to work.
Casinos are allowed to stay open to protect jobs, but executives said it didn't make sense to have staff on hand despite the lack of business. The gaming industry accounts for more than 80% of government revenue with most people employed directly or indirectly by the casino resorts.