Macau announced that it will shut down its casinos on Monday - the first time in two years - as the Asian gambling hub suspends nearly all commercial activity for a week as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections.
On Saturday, the city's chief executive, Ho Iat-seng, issued an executive order suspending the operations of all non-essential industrial and commercial businesses beginning the following Monday.
The injunction does not apply to supermarkets, restaurants, pharmacies, and other important public services, according to a press conference held by city officials on the same day.
"This is an official order with legal ramifications," stated Macau's Secretary for Administration and Justice, Cheong Weng-chon.
According to the city's anti-epidemic statute, violators might face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to 240 days.
In addition to mandating all inhabitants to remain indoors, the order stipulated that all adults must wear face masks when venturing outdoors.
The last time Macau suspended all casino operations was in February 2020, when establishments were shut down for 15 days in reaction to the initial COVID-19 outbreak.
Cheong stated that the order imposes a "standstill posture" rather than a citywide lockdown.
The new closure could be devastating to the Chinese gambling capital, where casino taxes account for more than 80% of the local government's earnings.
Macau's gaming business has already been severely impacted by the economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with gambling income plunging 68% year-over-year to $408 million in May.
In contrast, revenue pre-pandemic in May 2019 was 26 billion patacas.
The world's largest gaming hub is battling an epidemic of the extremely contagious Omicron BA.5 subvariant, which necessitates the closure of all public venues in accordance with Beijing's zero-COVID-19 policy.
On Sunday, 93 new instances of the virus were reported in Macau, bringing the total number of cases since mid-June to 1,467.
Friday's announcement of four rounds of citywide mass testing followed six rounds since mid-June.
Prior to the current move, all entertainment venues and dining-in services have been closed since June 23, with the exception of casinos.
During that time, city leader Ho stated that the Macau government had reached an agreement with local gambling enterprises to close "whichever casino is in danger"
The first major casino in Macau, The Grand Lisboa, was shuttered on July 7 after 13 employees tested positive for COVID-19. More than 500 customers were confined inside.