January 22, 2020 / 3:26 AM / in a month

Macau confirms first Wuhan virus case, tightens screening in casinos

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau confirmed on Wednesday its first case of pneumonia linked to an outbreak of a newly identified coronavirus and tightened temperature screening measures in casinos and around the city.

The death toll from the flu-like coronavirus in China rose to nine on Wednesday with 440 confirmed cases.

The virus, originating in Wuhan at the end of last year, has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

The Macau case involves a 52-year-old Wuhan businesswoman who reported to hospital on Tuesday, said Macau Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Ao Leong Lu, who vicechairs a committee set up to respond to the virus.

The woman took a high-speed train to the Chinese city of Zhuhai on Jan 19, then a shuttlebus to Macau. She had dinner with two friends, then went to the hotel and spent a long time in casinos. She was in a stable condition in an isolation ward. Her two friends were also being monitored and were in isolation.

Speaking at a news conference in Macau, Ao and other officials said authorities were coordinating with six gaming enterprises to introduce temperature screening machines at all entrances into casinos.

A total of 405 guest entrances and 47 staff entrances have already been provided with portable screening devices and all casino staff had to wear surgical masks. All performers and staff at the events hosted across Macau will be screened.

Entry points into Macau will also have temperature checks and visitors will be asked to fill in a health declaration form. Bus stops, taxi stands and wet markets will be cleaned more frequently.

The tourist-magnet casino industry in Macau, which returned to Chinese rule in 1999, accounts for more than 80% of the revenue in the city of 600,000 people. Macau is a popular Lunar New Year destination for mainland Chinese.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses named because of the crown-like spikes on their surfaces that cause respiratory illnesses ranging from the common cold to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Christian Schmollinger and Michael Perry

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