Addressing Wednesday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public Conde S. Januário Hospital Centre, said that the government now expects its facemask purchase scheme to continue for “a period of time”.
Lo said that the government would constantly evaluate whether its facemask purchase scheme should continue based on a number of factors, such as the development of the COVID-19 epidemic in Macau and elsewhere, the supply of facemasks in the private market, and “the ease with which residents can buy facemasks” in the private market.
“Based on [the government’s] current assessment, the scheme will possibly continue for a period of time,” Lo said.
The government said early this month that it will continue with its facemask purchase scheme this month, before reviewing the scheme by the end of the month so as to determine whether the scheme should continue next month, adding that it would take a number of factors into consideration when assessing the possible continuation of the scheme, such as the development of the COVID-19 epidemic in Macau and elsewhere, the necessity of the scheme’s continuation, and the supply of facemasks in the private market.
Under the scheme, which was launched by the government on January 23, each local resident and non-resident worker is entitled to buy 10 facemasks at the fixed price of eight patacas every 10 days at designated outlets upon presentation of their original Macau ID card or work permit (informally known as “blue card”). Parents or legal guardians are entitled to buy five child facemasks with the child’s ID card, with the remaining five for adult facemasks. The facemasks for children are only for those aged between three and eight. The scheme, which has so far been running for 12 rounds, has been widely praised by residents. The 13th round of the scheme will start tomorrow.
All of Macau’s 45 COVID-19 patients have been discharged. Macau has not confirmed a new COVID-19 case for 42 consecutive days.
Testing positive again vs relapse
Meanwhile, when asked by the media how the local government tackles the possible cases in which discharged COVID-19 patients later test positive for the virus again, Lo reaffirmed that Macau has been carrying out “the most sufficient safety measures in the world” to ensure that discharged COVID-19 patients will not pose any risk to the community. Lo pointed out that Macau’s COVID-19 patients have undergone isolation treatment for three to four weeks on average, followed by at least two weeks of recovery period isolation in “standard” isolation rooms that are used for COVID-19 treatment. Lo said that after the recovery period isolation, a COVID-19 patient is required to undergo two weeks of self-health management at home.
Lo insisted that “the three steps can fully ensure” that recovered COVID-19 patients will not result in transmission of the highly infectious disease in the community.
Lo noted that he has repeatedly pointed out that the fact that some discharged COVID-19 patients have later tested positive for the virus again is “merely a phenomenon”, which means that they do not have a relapse in suffering COVID-19 symptoms again, neither do they pose any risk of transmission.
“We have been carrying out very strong safety and prevention measures [for discharged COVID-19 patients]. Objectively, we cannot keep them forever merely due to being afraid that they will possibly spread the disease,” Lo said.
Lo pointed out that many research studies have suggested that the novel coronavirus carried by most COVID-19 patients who have shown symptoms for at least 10 days is no longer alive, despite the fact that they still test positive for the virus. Lo said that “very few” cases have been reported around the globe, which has over five million confirmed cases in total, where recovered COVID-19 patients have transmitted the disease to their family members.
Lo urged residents not to “excessively” worry about the situation in which some discharged patients in Macau might pose a risk to the community. Lo pointed out that discharged COVID-19 patients in many countries around the world have undergone hospital treatment for a “very short” time, adding he believed that they have been discharged after their symptoms improved. Lo said that Macau’s COVID-19 patients were in isolation for almost two months on average, which is very rare in the world. “Medical resources [elsewhere] in the world cannot support such a long hospitalisation period,” he said.
Not letting one’s guard down
Meanwhile, Lo also pointed out that Macau has been cleared of confirmed COVID-19 cases thanks to residents sticking to the government’s COVID-19 prevention measures, such as avoiding crowds, maintaining good personal hygiene, and sticking to social distancing. Lo said that Macau’s current situation of not having a single COVID-19 patient would not necessarily last forever, warning that Macau now being a COVID-19 low-risk region would “completely reverse” if residents let their guard down. Macau’s last novel coronavirus disease patient was discharged on Tuesday.
Lo reaffirmed that Macau’s COVID-19 prevention and control measures can only be gradually relaxed when the COVID-19 pandemic eases.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)