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Macau shut down a popular shopping mall adjacent to MGM China’s casino resort on the city’s main peninsula after several Covid-19 infections were found, as authorities raced to the biggest outbreak yet in the world’s biggest gambling hub.

One Central shopping mall will be shut for one week, while more than a dozen other zones or buildings, have also been ordered to close, authorities said.

Macau locked down one of the city’s most famous hotels, the Grand Lisboa on Tuesday, with more 500 people inside.

Macau has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases since mid-June with more than 14,000 people in mandatory quarantine. The territory had largely been Covid-free since an outbreak in October 2021.

A shopping mall inside the Four Seasons hotel owned by Las Vegas Sands Macau unit Sands China was also requested to shut this week after several cases were found.

The measures come as the government has stopped short of imposing a full lockdown, seen in Chinese cities such as Shanghai. However the city is effectively closed with most facilities shut and restaurants only providing takeaway.

The more than 600,000 residents in the former Portuguese colony have been asked to stay at home when possible and are required to take part in three citywide Covid-19 tests this week. People are also required to take rapid antigen tests in between.

Only Macau’s casinos have been allowed to stay open in a move to protect jobs, the government said. Macau gets more than 80 per cent of its tax revenues from the industry with most of the population employed directly or indirectly by the casino resorts.

Although casinos are physically open, there are few patrons and only a small number of staff, with many employees asked to stay home to comply with the government’s request.

Macau adheres to China’s “zero-Covid” policy which aims to curb all outbreaks, at almost any price, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.

  • Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, of Reuters.

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