Macau casinos quietly reopened on Thursday with the few people gambling sitting far apart under strict measures against the spread of the coronavirus.
After a 15-day mandatory shutdown, 29 establishments opened their doors again at midnight on Wednesday, with a raft of regulations covering those who wished to enter, including the compulsory wearing of masks and health declarations.
While no new Covid-19 cases have been reported since the order to close was given on February 4, when a hotel worker fell ill, the mood for gaming has not yet returned.
At the Venetian Macau, the city's largest casino, a hall housing more than 600 gaming tables and 1,700 slot machines looked desolate on Thursday morning.
At 11am, only one of the dozens of baccarat tables in the high-limit zones was occupied, with three players at the seven-seater table.
They were asked by a dealer to rub their hands with sanitiser every few rounds. Casino workers were also seen reminding onlookers not to stand or gather at the tables.
A regular gambler from Hong Kong, surnamed Tsang, said he was surprised by the hushed atmosphere.
"Previously, even in the quiet hours, there would be some noise from people who were betting. But now, I can only hear the background music. No one's here," he said.
Signs on every other games machine on the main floor told punters they were not available to play after the government required all casinos to shut down half their tables and machines to ensure a safe distance between visitors.
A slot machine player from Hong Kong, who refused to give her name, said: "The measures are not affecting me as I just concentrate on my games. I've been looking forward to its reopening for a long time."
The resumption of business at 70 per cent of Macau's casinos would be gradual, with fewer than a third of gaming tables " 1,800 " returning to operation, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau said on Wednesday.
Casino operators reopening in phases include MGM China, Wynn Macau and Galaxy Entertainment. Ten casinos that remain shut will have to reopen within 30 days in accordance with the city's gaming laws.
The gaming regulator required visitors to wear masks, undergo body temperature checks and make health declarations via mobile phone before entering the premises.
Those who have been to Hubei, the central Chinese province where the Covid-19 outbreak originated, in the past 14 days were not allowed entry.
Many gathered in the Venetian Macau were employees of shops and restaurants preparing to reopen later in the afternoon or on Friday.
Several neighbouring hotels in Sands Cotai Central remained closed.
A sales assistant at a luxury clothing shop in the casino complex, surnamed Li, said her company arranged accommodation for her in Macau so she did not have to cross the border every day to and from her home in Zhuhai, mainland China.
"We are delighted that our employer can offer this to minimise risks of infection for ourselves and guests as well," she said.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Macau stands at 10, while the figure rose to 65 in Hong Kong.
Macau has 41 casinos, which employed more than 57,000 full-time staff in 2018, according to official figures. Two of those, the Macau Palace and Greek Mythology, had closed well before the virus outbreak.
Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.Artikel Asli