Addressing Sunday’s daily press conference by the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Education and Youth Affairs Bureau (DSEJ) Deputy Director Kong Chi Meng said that his bureau has decided that all local school teachers will have to be tested for COVID-19, while only the pupils who commute between Macau and Zhuhai will be subject to the test, because teachers will have contact with many people in the school whereas pupils’ contact with others is primarily limited to their classmates.
Kong first announced during Saturday’s daily press conference that all secondary school teachers, as well as all pupils commuting between Macau and Zhuhai, must undergo a COVID-19 test. Kong said on Saturday that as senior (F4 to F6) and junior secondary school (F1 to F3) classes will resume on May 4 and 11 respectively, his bureau has launched the measure with pupils’ safety as its main concern.
According to Saturday’s announcement, teachers and other secondary school staff members who live in Macau will undergo the nucleic acid test once, while local teachers and pupils commuting between Macau and Zhuhai will have to undergo the test every seven days.
According to Saturday’s announcement, the free tests, which start today, are slated to be completed on Thursday, covering some 5,000 secondary school teachers and other staff members who live in Macau. The tests will be carried out in phases, 100 per hour, or up to 1,000 a day.
According to Saturday’s announcement, the first COVID-19 tests for secondary school teachers and F4 to F6 pupils commuting between Macau and Zhuhai are slated to be carried out from Wednesday to Friday, while F1 to F3 pupils commuting between the two cities are slated to undergo their first tests from May 7 to 9.
Secondary school teachers and other staff members who live in Macau will undergo their tests on the former premises of the Paediatric Joint Assessment Centre in the public Conde S. Januário Hospital Centre, while local teachers and pupils who live in Zhuhai will undergo their tests at designated hospitals there, according to Saturday’s announcement.
Afterwards, the tests will be gradually extended to teachers in other educational stages before their respective possible class resumptions, according to Saturday’s announcement. The bureau has not yet decided when classes in primary schools, kindergartens and special needs schools will be resumed. The bureau has said it does not rule out the possibility that kindergarten and special needs education pupils will not go back to school during the current school year which ends in the summer.
Macau’s basic education comprises 15 years – from K1 to F6, comprising different educational stages such as primary, junior secondary and senior secondary.
Macau’s schools and kindergartens have been closed since the Chinese New Year holiday in late January in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.
‘Face-to-face’ contacts also to be tested
During Sunday’s press conference, Kong said that in addition to teachers and school staff members, other personnel who have “face-to-face” contact with pupils, such as counsellors and therapists stationed in schools as well as extracurricular activity instructors will also be covered by the nucleic acid test measure. They will have to complete their tests before the resumption of classes.
When asked by the media why pupils who live in Macau will not be covered by the COVID-19 test while all teachers will have to undergo the test, Kong said that teachers have a much wider range of contact with others at school than pupils. Kong said that according to his bureau’s class resumption guidelines, pupils are advised to refrain from having contact with their peers in other classes and their extracurricular activities will be kept to a minimum, adding that therefore they will only have contact with their classmates most of the time when at school.
Kong said that in contrast, teachers have to teach pupils in different classes every day so that each of them will be in contact with many pupils. In addition, teachers will also contact their peers. Consequently, it was necessary for all teachers to be covered by the nucleic acid test.
“Pupils normally have seven to eight lessons per day, and they are only with their classmates most of the time,” Kong said.
“Some teachers are possibly in contact with pupils from over 10 classes per day, and they also discuss teaching matters with their peers in the school office,” Kong said.
During Sunday’s press conference, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public hospital, also underlined the need for all teachers to be tested for COVID-19 as they have more contact with others in the schools than pupils.
All travellers arriving in Guangdong from overseas as well as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan have had to undergo 14 days of “concentrated” quarantine there since March 27. Macau pupils who live in Zhuhai are exempted from the 14-day quarantine measure – provided that they hold a mainland residence permit.
The Education and Youth Affairs Bureau has pointed out that some 3,000 local pupils live in Zhuhai – which abuts Macau – and Zhongshan – which lies some 40 kilometres north of Macau – with most of them living in Zhuhai. Local pupils who live in the two cities are known as “cross-border” pupils. The bureau has said that some 1,100 of the local pupils living in Zhuhai are secondary school pupils.
Macau pupils who live in Zhongshan are not exempted from the 14-day quarantine measure imposed by Guangdong.
Kong said on Sunday that some 70 local secondary school pupils live in Zhongshan, around 30 of them are senior secondary school pupils who will return to school in the first phase beginning May 4.
Kong said that about 20 of the about 30 local senior secondary school pupils living in Zhongshan have told his bureau that they will move back to their homes in Macau so that they will be able to go back to school. Concerning the remaining pupils, Kong said that his bureau would arrange a privately-run hostel for those who find it difficult to find other kinds of accommodation in Macau. The pupils’ cost of staying at the hostel will be borne by the government, Kong said.
3 more discharged
Meanwhile, Health Bureau (SSM) officials announced during Sunday’s press conference that three more COVID-19 patients have been discharged from the isolation ward of the public hospital.
The trio discharged on Sunday comprise a 42-year-old woman and her 11-year-old son, both are family members of a non-resident worker from Indonesia who also came down with the disease and is still hospitalised, as well as a 52-year-old Australian tourist. They were transferred from the hospital to the Health Bureau’s Public Health Clinical Centre for 14 days of quarantine and medical observation.
A total of 14 novel coronavirus patients remained in the public hospital yesterday. Macau’s first of its total of 45 COVID-19 cases was confirmed on January 22. According to the Health Bureau, almost all of the 45 cases have been classified as imported.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
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