HONG KONG (REUTERS) – Macau will reopen its casinos on Saturday (July 23), a source with direct knowledge of the information said, as authorities seek to unwind some stringent measures which locked down the world’s biggest gambling hub for 12 days to curb its worst outbreak of Covid-19.

Some essential businesses and premises would be able to reopen on July 23, the government announced in a statement on Wednesday, but did not give details on casinos specifically.

The government has wanted to keep casinos open to protect jobs and livelihoods, as most of the population in the China-ruled territory are employed directly or indirectly by the gaming resorts.

The partial reopening will take place over two weeks, with cinemas, fitness and health clubs as well as beauty parlours continuing to be shut.

Authorities will also extend mass coronavirus testing of the city’s more than 600,000 residents.

Residents are still required to stay home, apart from those who need to go out for “work, shopping or other urgent reasons”, the statement said.

Infections have fallen over the past week, with only 10 cases reported on Tuesday.

Macau shut all its casinos for the first time in more than two years on July 11.

The former Portuguese colony has recorded around 1,800 Covid-19 infections since mid-June.

This is the first time Macau has had to grapple with the fast spreading Omicron variant.

More than 90 per cent of Macau’s residents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 but authorities have closely followed China’s zero Covid-19 mandate which seeks to curb all outbreaks at almost any cost, contrary to the rest of the world which is already living with the virus.

While casinos will reopen, there will likely be no business for several weeks, executives and analysts said, with many coronavirus rules set to remain in place.

Macau’s casinos are soaking up losses as they prepare to bid for new licences by next month in a business that generated US$36 billion (S$50.14 billion) in revenue in 2019, the last year before Covid-19 curbs slammed the sector.