Addressing Wednesday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the Health Bureau’s (SSM) Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou said that the government has decided to move its COVID-19 medical examination station at the Workers Stadium near the Barrier Gate checkpoint to the Macau Forum complex in Zape from 8 a.m. on Thursday. The number of border checkpoint arrivals required to undergo medical tests has recently increased to over 3,000 per day, and the Macau Forum complex is bigger than the Workers Stadium.
Leong also said that the relocation gives the bureau more flexibility in arranging for its medical staff members to carry out the medical examinations on arrivals.
Leong made the remarks Wednesday evening at the bureau next to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre.
Since February 20, visitors arriving from COVID-19 high-prevalence regions have to undergo a medical examination – which lasts six to eight hours. The local government last month set up two stations where medical staff members carry out the medical examinations – one at the Workers Stadium next to the Barrier Gate checkpoint for visitors arriving at the border checkpoints on the peninsula and the other at the Taipa Ferry Terminal for visitors arriving at the border checkpoints in Taipa and Cotai.
The local government has classified the provinces of Guangdong, Henan and Zhejiang, as well as the municipalities of Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai, as COVID-19 high-prevalence regions. Visitors arriving from these areas must undergo a medical examination upon arrival in Macau. Residents of Hubei are currently forbidden to leave the province.
The medical examination is also applicable to other visitors who have been in any of the six high-prevalence regions on the mainland in the past 14 days before their intended entry into Macau.
The medical examination measure also covers Macau residents who cross Macau-Zhuhai border checkpoints “an abnormal number of times” per day – i.e. suspected parallel traders who travel between the two cities more than three times a day. The local police have said that immigration officers do not strictly adhere to the more-then-three-times criterion for Macau residents who cross Macau-Zhuhai border checkpoints “an abnormal number of times” per day, and decide case-by-case whether to order a local resident crossing the checkpoint to undergo the medical examination.
The local government has pointed out that visitors who arrive in Macau from Zhuhai are always subject to the medical examination measure because Guangdong province is a high-prevalence region.
The medical examination measure previously also covered visitors arriving from South Korea – and other visitors who had been in the country in the past 14 days – until 12 p.m. on February 26. Since then anyone, including local residents, visitors and non-resident workers, who have been in South Korea in the past 14 days before their intended entry into Macau have to stay under medical surveillance for 14 days.
Visitors and non-resident workers have to go into the 14-day quarantine at the Pousada Marina Infante hotel in Cotai and pay a fee, while local residents can choose to go into quarantine either in their home or at the hotel, depending on whether their flat can meet certain requirements, such as whether they need to share a bedroom. Starting from 12 p.m. on February 29, the quarantine measure was extended to also cover all arrivals who had been in Italy or Iran in the past 14 days prior to their entry into Macau.
6 mainland provinces & municipalities
Consequently, the six-to-eight-hour medical examination measure for visitors currently only covers six provinces and municipalities on the mainland.
On the first day (February 20) of the implementation of the medical examination measure, 1,414 visitors from COVID-19 high-prevalence regions were taken to the Workers Stadium station for medical examinations, while 381 were taken to the Taipa Ferry Terminal station, and 792 visitors chose to return to the mainland as they were unwilling to undergo the medical examination, according to the local police. Therefore, a total of 1,795 visitors underwent a medical examination at the two stations on February 20.
Since February 20, the number of visitors from COVID-19 high-prevalence regions undergoing medical examinations at the two stations per day has been steadily increasing, according to figures released by the local police.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Lei Tak Fai, who heads the Public Relations Division of the Public Security Police (PSP), said that 1,616 visitors were taken to the Workers Stadium station for medical examinations on Tuesday, while 2,003 were taken to the Taipa Ferry Terminal station. Therefore, a total of 3,619 visitors underwent medical examinations at the two stations on Tuesday. According to Lei, 310 visitors chose to return to the mainland as they were unwilling to subject themselves to a medical examination on Tuesday.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Leong said that Pavilion A and Pavilion B of the Workers Stadium can accommodate up to 400 visitors and 100 visitors respectively at the same time – 500 visitors in total, while the Taipa Ferry Terminal station can accommodate up to 500 visitors simultaneously.
Leong said that as the number of visitor arrivals who have to undergo medical examinations per day has increased to over 3,000 in recent days, the two medical examination stations were no longer able to accommodate all the visitors undergoing a medical examination at the same time during the peak period.
Leong said that therefore the government decided to relocate the medical examination station from the Workers Stadium to the more spacious Macau Forum complex, which will start operating at 8 a.m. today, so as to ensure that the medical examination station can be operated in an orderly way and that the medical staff members can always carry out the medical examinations on visitors for six to eight hours.
Forum big enough for 1,000 simultaneous tests
According to Leong, the Macau Forum complex, which covers an area of over 7,000 square metres and has 4,000 seats, can accommodate over 1,000 visitors undergoing their medical examinations at the same time.
Leong also pointed out the fact that the medical examinations were carried out in two areas in the Workers Stadium meant that the medical staff members were divided into two teams to carry out their tasks. Leong said that the relocation to the Macau Forum complex will enable all the medical staff members to work together, adding that this will enable the bureau to have a higher flexibility in organising its medical staff members to carry out the tasks and “have a better management on the visitors”.
Leong also said that if the number of visitor arrivals who have to undergo a medical examination keeps increasing in the future so that even the Macau Forum complex could not accommodate them, the government would not rule out the possibility of relocating the medical examination station from the Macau Forum complex to an even bigger venue.
180 in Hubei ask for help
Meanwhile, Inês Chan Lou, who heads the Licensing and Inspection Department of the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), said during Wednesday’s press conference that 180 Macau residents and their accompanying relatives stranded in Hubei have asked for help from the local government.
A charter plane is slated to depart for Wuhan at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday to bring back Macau residents who are in or near Wuhan, and who are in other locales in the province but face special circumstances.
Saturday’s charter flight will have 60 passengers, who will have to arrange for transport themselves to travel to the airport in Wuhan. Chan said on Wednesday that 57 of them have confirmed to the Macau government that they have already arranged their transport to the airport in Wuhan.
The plane is slated to take off from Wuhan at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The flight takes about 1 1/2 hours.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © Government Information Bureau (GCS)