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Macau casinos to resume operations from Feb 20 after suspension over virus fear

FILE PHOTO: A man wears a mask as walks in front of the closed Grand Lisboa casino, following the coronavirus outbreak in Macau, China February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, will allow casinos to resume operations from Feb. 20, after authorities imposed a two-week suspension to curb spreading of the coronavirus, public broadcaster TDM reported on Monday, citing authorities.

The unprecedented halt of gaming operations started on Feb 5 and was due to end on Feb 19. Macau has not reported any new cases of the virus since Feb 4, authorities said. There have been 10 confirmed cases of the virus in total.

Government services, which had mostly been suspended since the start of February, gradually resumed operations this week but authorities cautioned that residents needed to remain vigilant.

Macau's government has told casino operators, which include Sands China 1928.HK, Wynn Macau 1128.HK, SJM Holdings 0880.HK, MGM China 2282.HK, Galaxy Entertainment 0027.HK and Melco Resorts MLCO.O, they have 30 days to go back to full business, health officials said on Monday.

While casinos have been given permission to operate, business is likely to be limited, say executives, due to Macau’s strict controls on visitor entry and curtailed transport links, including the suspension of ferry services from neighbouring special administrative region Hong Kong.

Nearly 30 hotels, mostly joined to casinos, have been shuttered in the past two weeks due to the suspension. It was not immediately clear how quickly those operations, as well as other non-gaming amenities would resume.

Reporting by Farah Master and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Toby Chopra