HONG KONG (Reuters) -- Macau will reopen public services and entertainment facilities, and allow dining-in at restaurants from Tuesday, authorities said, as the world's biggest gambling hub seeks a return to normalcy after finding no COVID-19 cases for nine straight days.
Beauty salons, fitness centres, and bars too will be allowed to resume operations, the government said in a statement on Monday. The announcement came as authorities also reported on Monday that July monthly casino revenues dropped 95% year on year to 0.4 billion patacas ($49.5 million), the lowest on record.
Casinos were closed for 12 days in July, reopening on July 23 as authorities began unwinding stringent measures which required most businesses and premises to shut.
The former Portuguese colony has reported around 1,800 infections since mid-June when it was hit with its worst coronavirus outbreak that forced the closure of casinos and locked down most of the city.
Despite reopening, there is likely to be no business for at least a few weeks, analysts said, due to strict restrictions still in place.
Health authorities will require residents to wear masks when they go out and must show a negative coronavirus test within three days to enter most venues.
"There have been no community infection cases in Macau for nine consecutive days... and the risk of the spread of the coronavirus has been greatly reduced," it said.
This is the first time Macau has had to grapple with the fast spreading Omicron variant.
More than 90% of Macau's residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but authorities have closely followed China's zero-COVID mandate which seeks to curb all outbreaks at almost any cost, contrary to the rest of the world which is living with the virus.
The city only has one public hospital which was already overburdened even before the pandemic.
Sands China, Wynn Macau, MGM China, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holdings and Melco Resorts are the current six casino license holders in Macau. Their licenses will expire by the end of the year.
They are soaking up losses as they prepare to bid for new licenses in a business that generated $36 billion in revenue in 2019, the last year before COVID curbs slammed the sector.
($1 = 8.0770 patacas)
(Reporting by Farah Master and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Toby Chopra)
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