Addressing Sunday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Lei Tak Fai, who heads the Public Relations Division of the Public Security Police (PSP), said that some 20,000 non-resident workers are covered by the newly-announced exemption from the current 14-day quarantine imposed on non-resident workers from the mainland.
The exemption was announced by the Macau government on Saturday.
Since February 20, non-resident workers who have been in the mainland within 14 days prior to their intended entry into Macau have had to go into quarantine and medical observation for 14 days at a facility in Zhuhai arranged by the health authorities there and then obtain a health certificate issued by the Zhuhai health authorities confirming that they have not been infected with the novel coronavirus disease, before they are allowed to enter Macau.
The 14-day quarantine measure imposed on mainland non-resident workers by the Macau government is carried out in collaboration with its Zhuhai counterpart.
The Macau government’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre announced a string of eased entry restrictions for locally-employed non-resident workers living in Zhuhai – which takes effect at 6 a.m. today – during Saturday’s daily press conference. According to the eased restrictions, non-resident workers holding a Zhuhai ID card or residence permit are exempted from the 14-day quarantine requirement from 6 a.m. today if they have obtained an official nucleic acid test certificate proving that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the past seven days and their colour code in the “Macau Health Code” system issued by the Macau Health Bureau (SSM) indicates green.
An executive order signed by Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng on the eased entry restrictions was published in the Official Gazette (BO) shortly before Saturday’s evening press conference.
Tens of thousands of non-resident workers employed in Macau live in Zhuhai.
Saturday’s announcement means that other mainland non-resident workers who are not covered by the exemptions are still subject to the 14-day quarantine measure which has been in force for over two months.
According to Saturday’s announcement, the non-resident workers eligible for the exemption have to register with the China Capital Employment Agencies Association (Macau) – an association of agencies hiring workers from the mainland – before entering Macau.
All travellers arriving in Guangdong from overseas as well as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan have had to undergo 14 days of “concentrated” quarantine and nucleic acid testing there since March 27. Certain groups of Macau people could apply to the Zhuhai authorities for exemption from the 14-day quarantine measure imposed by Guangdong, such as those who live in Zhuhai but work in Macau – provided that they hold a Zhuhai residence permit.
Macau pupils and teachers who live in Zhuhai or Zhongshan have been exempted from the 14-day quarantine measure imposed by Guangdong since early this month without the need to apply for the exemption. They have to show their pupil or teacher cards and a document showing that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within seven days, when entering Zhuhai.
Eased restrictions from 6 a.m. today
The Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre also announced on Saturday that starting from 6 a.m. today, all arrivals from the mainland have to show a nucleic acid test certificate proving that they have tested negative for COVID-19 before entering being allowed to enter Macau, and the results can be displayed by the “Macau Health Code” or the Guangdong version of the mainland’s health code system. Macau residents who fail to show the certificate will be immediately tested by Health Bureau officials, while non-residents will be denied entry, according to Saturday’s announcement.
The Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre said on Saturday that consequently the six-to-eight-hour medical examination imposed by the Macau government since February 20 on mainland visitors who have been in the six COVID-19-high-prevalence regions on the mainland (Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong, Henan, Shanghai and Zhejiang) is cancelled from 6 a.m. today, when the medical examination post at the Macau Forum complex in Zape will close.
During Sunday’s press conference, Lei said that the Macau and Zhuhai government have jointly determined that the implementation of the new exemption measure on mainland non-resident workers from the quarantine requirement is feasible before rolling it out. Lei said that the new exemption measure will not adversely affect Macau’s COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control work.
Lei also said that the two governments are constantly aiming to gradually relax the current entry restriction and quarantine measures between the two places so that residents can gradually restore their normal lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public Conde S. Januário Hospital Centre, reaffirmed during the press conference that the medical examination measure could be cancelled because the nucleic acid testing capabilities in both Macau and Zhuhai have significantly increased. “The nucleic acid testing [in the two cities] has now become a regular scheme, which could replace the medical examination measure,” Lo said, adding that “the medical examination has finished its historical mission”.
The Macau government launched last Thursday a nucleic acid testing scheme for Macau residents who live in Zhuhai and work in Macau (with a Zhuhai residence permit), and Macau pupils and teachers who live in Zhuhai or Zhongshan. The testing was extended from the next day to other Macau residents who need to cross the Macau-Zhuhai border checkpoints but do not hold a Zhuhai residence permit. The scheme was later extended to mainland non-resident workers who are currently staying in Macau and eligible for the new exemption measure from the quarantine requirement. The first test is free of charge for all Macau residents and non-resident workers, but follow-up tests will cost 180 patacas each. However, pupils and teachers are exempt from the fee.
3,318 nucleic acid tests Saturday
Lo also said that 3,318 nucleic acid tests were carried out at the Pac On ferry terminal on Sunday. The tests take less than a minute and the results are available in three to four hours, according to Health Bureau (SSM) officials.
Government officials have said that thousands of non-resident workers in Macau are eager to be tested for COVID-19 so that they can finally visit their families in the mainland. Many of them had entered Macau before February 20, when the 14-day quarantine got off the ground. There were long queues outside the ferry terminal on Sunday.
Lo said that the Macau government will not consider a general fee exemption, including Macau residents who are not pupils and teachers and non-resident workers. Lo said that the 180-pataca fee is much lower than the cost, adding that the Macau government has “done a lot” to get the testing scheme off the ground. Lo said that a person is charged equivalent to 2,000 to 3,000 patacas for each test in Hong Kong while the equivalent of 1,600 to 2,400 patacas is charged in Taiwan.
Only 4 COVID-19 patients still under treatment
Meanwhile, Lo announced the discharge of one more COVID-19 patient, a 19-year-old female local resident studying in the UK who returned to Macau on March 18. She had gone into medical observation in one of Macau’s government-designated “quarantine hotels” before being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus disease on March 22.
Following Sunday’s discharge, she has started her 14-day recovery period isolation in the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane. Just four of Macau’s 45 COVID-19 patients were still undergoing isolation treatment yesterday.
Back to classrooms for junior secondary school pupils today
Meanwhile, Macau’s junior secondary school pupils return to their classrooms today. They senior secondary school counterparts returned to in-class teaching last Monday. Macau’s schools had been closed since the Chinese New Year holiday. The government has still to announce when primary and special needs education pupils will be able to return to their classrooms.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © Government Information Bureau (GCS)