Macau kicked off a new round of city-wide Covid-19 testing on Monday for its more than 600,000 residents, as officials raced to contain a spiralling number of cases in the worst outbreak to hit the world’s biggest gambling hub since the pandemic began.
Coronavirus testing for all residents will take place three times this week across the city, with people also required to take rapid antigen tests in-between.
The move comes as the former Portuguese colony reported 90 new cases on Sunday, taking the total number of infections to 784 since the middle of June. More than 11,000 people are in quarantine.
While Macau, a Chinese special administrative region, has not introduced a full scale lockdown seen in mainland Chinese cities like Shanghai, the city is already largely closed.
All non-essential government services are shut, schools, parks, sports and entertainment facilities are closed and restaurants can only provide takeaway.
Casinos are allowed to remain open but most staff have been asked to stay home, in line with instructions to the city’s residents. The government said it would not shut casinos to protect jobs.
The stringent measures come after Macau has been largely Covid-free since an outbreak in October 2021.
Macau adheres to China’s “zero-Covid” policy which aims to eradicate all outbreaks, at just about any cost, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.
Macau’s cases are still far below daily infections in other places, including neighbouring Hong Kong where cases have jumped to more than 2,000 a day this month.
However, it only has one public hospital, whose services are already stretched on a daily basis. The territory has an open border with mainland China, with many residents living and working in the adjoining city of Zhuhai.