Macau cancels New Year celebrations, casino suspension not ruled out

After confirming yesterday that celebrations would be carefully operated with numerous preventative measures, a second confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, informally known as Wuhan pneumonia, in Macau has caused officials to reconsider.

Announced today in an afternoon press briefing, Chief Executive of Macau Mr. Ho Iat Seng said that Macau would indefinitely cancel all large-scale public events that it had planned to celebrate the Year of the Rat in order to strengthen its disease prevention measures.

Furthermore, the Chief Executive said he would not rule out the possibility of indefinitely suspending casino operations as well should the situation worsen.

This would be only the second shutdown since Macau casino licenses were issued in 2002 – the first was when Typhoon Mangkhut ripped through the region in September 2018.

Mr. Ho urged local organizations to cancel their events and implored residents to stay at home during the Chinese New Year holiday.

This news comes on the heels of two dire days for Macau gaming stocks which saw an average total drop of around 10%.

Macau’s second case of the novel coronavirus was detected earlier today at the Border Gate Checkpoint via one of hundreds of body temperature scanners. The 66-year-old male visiting from Wuhan was detected with a temperature of 38.7 °C (101.7 °F) and immediately sent to a local hospital for further checks, which returned positive.

Analyst Edward Engel with Macquarie Securities noted that visitors from Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, account for approximately 2% of Macau visitation.

So far, the novel coronavirus has claimed at least 17 lives in China with more than 630 people infected. Researchers from Northeastern University and Imperial College London believe that the actual number of cases may be five or ten times higher than what has been reported with Northeastern’s modeling showing around 4,000 cases as most likely.