acau chief executive Ho Iat Seng said Thursday that casinos may be forced to close if the contagion situation worsens in the city due to the Chinese coronavirus from Wuhan. At a press conference on the day Macau diagnosed a second person infected with the virus, he said the government could not rule out this possibility if the scenario worsened.
Macau confirmed on Wednesday its first case of pneumonia linked to an outbreak of a newly identified coronavirus and tightened temperature screening measures in casinos and around the city. The authorities on Thursday identified a second person infected with the new type of coronavirus, a 66-year-old man, who, like the first case, a 52-year-old woman, is also from Wuhan. Currently, in isolation, both cases are considered high-risk patients.
The death toll from the flu-like coronavirus in China rose to nine on Wednesday with 440 confirmed cases, Reuters reports. The virus, originating in Wuhan at the end of last year, has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
Speaking at a news conference in Macau, Macau Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Ao Leong Lu, who vicechairs a committee set up to respond to the virus, and other officials said authorities were coordinating with six gaming enterprises to introduce temperature screening machines at all entrances into casinos. A total of 405 guest entrances and 47 staff entrances have already been provided with portable screening devices and all casino staff had to wear surgical masks. All performers and staff at the events hosted across Macau will be screened.
The Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre held a meeting Wednesday.
Las Vegas Sands stock was falling Tuesday as shares of the gaming and resort company faced a downgrade from Morgan Stanley and growing concerns over the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus. Analyst Thomas Allen cut his recommendation on Las Vegas Sands to equal-weight from overweight with a price target of $72 a share.
MGM Resorts International, Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands Corp. declined 6.2%, 9.6%, 6.1% and 5.4%, respectively, on Jan 21.
Bernstein analysts warned that the pneumonia outbreak could have a lasting impact on Macau’s gaming operators, The Street reports. Fever is a common symptom of the virus and the analysts said that health officials and gaming regulators have been "assisting casino operators with purchasing and installing body temperature detection equipment since early January to strengthen virus prevention and control measures.” While the impact of the virus has been more muted to date, the analysts warn that "any major spread that begins to disrupt travel would be negative for Macau stocks.”
Entry points into Macau will also have temperature checks and visitors will be asked to fill in a health declaration form. Bus stops, taxi stands and wet markets will be cleaned more frequently. The tourist-magnet casino industry in Macau, which returned to Chinese rule in 1999, accounts for more than 80% of the revenue in the city of 600,000 people.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses named because of the crown-like spikes on their surfaces that cause respiratory illnesses ranging from the common cold to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).