Casino Staff in Macau Ordered to Mask Up

At least two cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Macau, prompting authorities to issue a series of precautionary measures at the city’s casinos. The situation reached a new level of severity this week for Macau’s casino industry. Operating as a major port city in China, the risk level posed from the coronavirus was always significant, and now with two confirmed cases of infection, the city’s authorities have issued a series of precautionary measures that have a direct effect on the local casinos. All casinos in the city have implemented compulsory face-mask wearing for staff, have set up body temperature screening for all entrants, and have discouraged visitors from Wuhan from entering any public premises.

Virus under a microscope.

The outbreak of the SARS-like coronavirus, or Wuhan virus as it is sometimes referred, has caused a series of precautionary measures to be initiated across Macau. The city’s casinos are on high-alert as they approach the busiest weekend of the year with huge footfalls expected. ©qimono/Pixabay

Whilst this is still the early stage of the outbreak, the current death-toll stands at 17, with over 500 active infections. The first confirmed case in the casino hub city of Macau was from a 52-year-old businesswoman who arrived in the city from Wuhan on a high-speed railway. So far, she is being treated in hospital and authorities are attempting to track her movements and identify any potential infection risks she may have imposed. Other precautionary measures have to be initiated, with temperature screening gates at all public ports, travel bans placed on citizens from Wuhan, and public safety ordered enforcing the wearing of face-masks in public areas.

The spread of the SARS-like coronavirus comes at a very busy time in the calendar for the Macau casinos. With Chinese New Year celebrations reaching their climax this weekend, many thousands of wealthy Asian tourists are expected to visit the local casinos to celebrate the occasion. This extra influx of customers poses a high-risk level for the industry and they will be making sure that no existential threat from the virus can inflict a health hazard on their clientele. This has been effectively planned for and the city’s casinos are under special measures to reduce the risk factor to its staff, local population and visiting tourists.

Series of Safety Measures Initiated at Macau Casinos

The city authorities are taking no chances this week, already enforcing an industry wide mask-wearing policy from all staff working inside the casinos, and temperature scanning gates at the entrance of all casinos. These precautionary measures are the first phase in a series of escalating threat levels. Should the infection spread even further than its current level, then we can fully expect the city to shut-down all of its casinos.

This coming weekend represents one of the busiest days in the calendar for Macau, with Chinese New Year celebrations heating up, visitors from across Asia are expected to descend on the city in their droves. Whilst this will be an extremely good time for business, the city’s health authorities are understandably frantic in their warnings of the extra risk of exposure to the coronavirus this will pose.

The local government has a very difficult set of decisions to make in the coming days, if the outbreak of the virus does reach more serious levels than the shutdown of the casinos will be inevitable. The risk of keeping them open for business is clearly one that they are willing to take in order to cash in on the above normal footfall expected to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Whilst the casinos are taking all the precautions legally required, which includes victors from the mainland filing a health declaration form upon arrival, there will be a push from the state authorities to ramp up these measures if the confirmed case number rises from its current level of 2.

As the Macau Secretary for Social Affairs & Culture, Ao Leong Lu, commenting on the risk posed by victors from Wuhan:

We have not banned tourism groups from Wuhan but we are not encouraging them. We will stay in close contact with tourism agencies and require them to notify us of all groups going to and coming from Wuhan.David Lampitt Managing Director, Sportradar

Speaking after the press conference, Ao and various other officials confirmed that they are in direct coordination with six casino enterprises within Macau drafting contingency plans in case the situation threat level heightens, and preparing temperature screening devices at the many bottlenecks in the cities mobility network.

Currently, a total of 405 customer entrances and 50 staff entrances are already equipped with the temperature screening devices. With this technology in place, guests visiting the casino with a temperature above 38°C will be flagged as potential risks and will be prevented from entering the premises. Whilst this system has several flaws, such as the human body temperature can fluctuate depending on what activity one has been doing, the occurrence of false positives is rare. The temperature screening devices are proving to be an effective way of identifying potentially infected individuals and Macau’s casinos are currently installing the devices en masse.

Tensions are definitely rising in the casino city of Macau. But for now, the health risk is relatively non-existent. The feeling of anxiety is primarily being felt from casino bosses and vetted business interests who are concerned with the negative impact drastic government regulatory action will pose on their expected revenues over the celebration period of Chinese New Year.

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