Resort facilities

Macau adds more casino hotels to use as COVID medical facilities

HONG KONG, July 8 (Reuters) – Authorities in Macau have added two hotels at popular casinos that will be used as COVID-19 medical facilities from Friday as they try to boost their capacity to handle a wave of infections in the largest gaming center in the world.

The east wing of the Grand Lisboa Palace owned by SJM Holdings and the Grand Hyatt hotel owned by Melco Resorts will together provide nearly 800 rooms, they said.

Sands China’s Sheraton Hotel and London complex have already been used as quarantine facilities.

The announcement comes as Macau reported 128 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 1,215 cases since mid-June. More than 15,000 people are in quarantine, authorities said.

The former Portuguese colony has just one public hospital for its more than 600,000 residents, and its medical system was already strained before the coronavirus outbreak.

Authorities have set up a makeshift hospital in a sports dome near the city’s Las Vegas-style Cotai Strip and have around 600 mainland medical workers assisting them.

Macau adheres to China’s “zero-COVID” policy which aims to curb all outbreaks at almost any cost, bucking a global trend of trying to coexist with the virus. Although the government has not imposed the kind of citywide lockdown seen in mainland Chinese cities, Macau is effectively locked down and most facilities are closed. Residents have been told to stay home and restaurants are only offering takeout. Residents thronged to food markets and grocery stores on Thursday, fearing the city could be shut down completely. The government denied the rumors and urged the public not to panic and hoard food, according to local TV station TDM.

The neighboring global financial hub of Hong Kong has seen similar chaos after lockdown rumors surfaced repeatedly. Authorities there never imposed a full lockdown and began easing COVID restrictions even as cases hit around 3,000 a day. (Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Tom Hogue)