Coronavirus spreads in Macau, threatens Chinese New Year celebrations


On the heels of the first reported case of coronavirus in Macau, health officials now have a second instance on their hands. The news is troubling city leaders and the Macau Health Bureau, concerned about the potential for the illness to continue spreading like it has in mainland China. So far, 17 deaths in China have been attributed to the virus and, with the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday set to get underway this weekend, Macau is now having to rethink its agenda. One event has already been cancelled, and more may follow.

coronavirus-spreads-in-macau-threatens-chinese-new-year-celebrationsThe second person to be linked to the SARS-like illness is a 66-year-old man who traveled to the city from his home in Wuhan. Located in the Hubei province, Wuhan has been identified as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and the traveler arrived in Macau from Zhuhai yesterday. Fortunately, upon entry, he was scanned for the virus and, when the results showed he had a fever, he was immediately isolated from the area.

According to the Macau Health Bureau’s Lam Chong, who leads the entity’s Center for Disease Prevention, ten individuals have been put in isolation after they were found to have come in contact with the two people identified as being ill with the coronavirus.

Because of the presence of the virus in mainland China, and the new cases found in Macau, the picture for the CNY celebrations is changing rapidly. Despite high-end hotels being at near-capacity and more flights being added to the schedule, traffic will more than likely drop off, causing a hit to the city’s bottom line as it tries to recover from a 2019 that was weaker than expected.

The Macao Government Tourism Office has already been forced to cancel at least one activity, the Parade for Celebration of the Year of the Rat. It was to make two appearances during the week-long holiday period, once on January 27 and again on February 1, but the potential for seeing the virus quickly spread among the multitude of revelers is too great.

At least one flight from Wuhan to Macau has already been cancelled, and more are coming. Public transportation in the mainland city has been curtailed. According to the BBC, all flights and passenger trains out of Wuhan have been brought to a halt, and bus, subway and ferry services have also been shut down.

Two instances of coronavirus have also been identified in Hong Kong and there is a report that the US has seen one case, as well. Elsewhere, Thailand has reportedly seen three and South Korea, Japan and Taiwan each have one identified coronavirus victim. According to Macquarie Capital analyst Larry Hu, “The bad news is that the worst has yet to come.”