Macau Man Sentenced to Five Months in Jail for Walking Without Face Mask

A Macau man has been sentenced to five months in prison for violating the enclave’s emergency health directive. That rule is ordering people to stay put inside their residencies amid a COVID-19 outbreak in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR).

The Venetian Macau on the Cotai Strip. Macau is currently a ghost town amid a citywide lockdown. Those who violate the region’s lockdown order face steep potential penalties. (Image: South China Morning Post)

Macau’s Unitary Police Service revealed today that a man was observed smoking outside in public in violation of the city’s emergency health decree. The man, whose identity nor age was immediately made public, was arrested Tuesday evening at the Fu Van Courtyard in downtown Macau. Inside Asian Gaming first broke the news.

Macau is currently on a weeklong lockdown in hopes of slowing the coronavirus’ current variant that is swiftly spreading across the SAR. The region’s casinos, which are critical to Macau’s economy and employ more workers than any other sector in town, are among the nonessential businesses ordered to close until at least July 19.

Macau residents are to stay at home other than for essential reasons, such as buying groceries and picking up medicine. SAR officials say all leisure activities, including exercising outdoors, are prohibited through next Monday.

Prison Sentence Delayed

Law enforcement explained that the individual was detained under Macau’s Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Law. A quick court case determined remotely by judicial authorities deemed the man guilty of neglecting the health decree.

The case was dealt with by the court on a summary procedure because the maximum sentence is under three years and the conditions are such that summary procedures can be used,” Cheung Kin Yan, communications director for Macau’s Judiciary Police, explained of the swift legal proceeding.

The man can avoid spending any actual time behind bars by staying out of trouble for the next 24 months. If he is deemed by the government to demonstrate good behavior over the next two years, his prison sentence will be annulled.

Macau police have issued hundreds of warnings against residents for violating the current stay-at-home order. The prison sentence is expected to send shockwaves through the region that the local government is serious about staying home.

Cases Continue Climbing

Macau’s drastic step of closing its casinos for a week further postpones a gaming recovery in what was the world’s richest gaming market prior to the pandemic. But the chief executives of three of the gaming operators remain bullish on a Macau comeback.

MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle said this week that Macau “will forever be” the world’s richest casino market. MGM Resorts owns a controlling 56% stake in MGM China, which owns and operates two integrated resorts in the Chinese enclave.

Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein agrees. Sands owns Sands China, the largest gaming operator in Macau.

“I find it funny that people question Macau’s return. You got to basically hunker down and wait for it to turn,” Goldstein told CNBC. He added that he expects the recovery to start late this year or in 2023.

The recovery will come when either two things happen: COVID-19 somehow disappears, or China terminates its “zero COVID” policy that Macau has so far followed. “Zero COVID” mandates that cities go on lockdown or take drastic steps in response to new cases.

In Macau, the current lockdown is finally helping to slow the spread. Only 24 new cases were confirmed yesterday. Local authorities say the daily new caseload is declining amid the lockdown. But since the outbreak began last month, Macau has counted 1,644 infections.

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