Addressing Monday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U announced that with effect from 00:00 Tuesday, all those who have been to a foreign country within the past 14 days prior to their entry into Macau must stay under medical surveillance for 14 days in a place designated by the Health Bureau (SSM), considering that Macau has just confirmed its 11th and 12th COVID-19 cases and the disease is constantly spreading across the world.
According to Ao Ieong, under the new quarantine measure – which started to be implemented immediately after midnight Monday night, those who have been to COVID-19 high-risk areas will be transferred to a government-designated hotel (Pousada Marina Infante in Cotai) or the bureau’s quarantine facility in Coloane for the 14-day quarantine – even local residents, while those who have been to “less risky” areas can opt for home quarantine.
For non-Macau residents, the 14-day quarantine at the hotel will cost 5,600 patacas. For Macau permanent and non-permanent residents, it will be free.
The policy secretary announced the stricter measure in the wake of Macau’s 11th COVID-19 case on Monday – an imported case which was confirmed on Sunday night – and the rapid deterioration of the epidemic around the world, particularly in Europe.
The 11th COVID-19 patient is a 26-year-old female non-resident worker from South Korea. She left Macau and travelled to Porto with her boyfriend – a local Portuguese national – for a family visit on January 30, before returning to Macau with her boyfriend in the early hours of Saturday. She sought treatment at the public Conde de São Januário Hospital on Sunday afternoon after coming down with a fever, according to a statement by the local government in the early hours of Monday.
In response to the escalating epidemic in different areas in the world, the local government started on February 26 to impose a 14-day quarantine on any arrivals – local residents, visitors, non-resident workers or non-local students – who have been to South Korea within the 14 days prior to their entry into Macau. The quarantine measure was extended on February 29 to also cover travellers who have been in Italy or Iran within the 14 days prior to their arrival here. The measure was extended last Tuesday to all arrivals from Japan, France, Germany and Spain.
Under the previous quarantine measure – which was in force until Monday, non-Macau residents – visitors, non-resident workers and non-local students enrolled in local universities and colleges– had to go into 14-day quarantine at the Pousada Marina Infante hotel at their own expense, while local residents could choose 14-day quarantine either at home or at the hotel, depending on whether their flat could meet certain requirements, such as whether they need to share a bedroom.
Normally, the local government transfers those who have been in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients to the bureau’s quarantine facility in Coloane – Public Health Clinical Centre – for 14-days quarantine.
Under the toughened version which was announced by Ao Ieong on Monday and starts Tuesday, local residents upon arrival in Macau after returning from a high-risk foreign country can no longer choose to go into home quarantine and will instead be taken to the designated hotel or even to the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane for 14-days quarantine.
Focus on arrivals from foreign countries
During Monday’s press conference at the bureau next to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital, Ao Ieong said that as Macau has confirmed the 11th COVID-19 case and the novel coronavirus disease is spreading across the world, the local government has now changed its overall epidemic prevention policy from focusing on the prevention of cases imported from the mainland to focusing on the prevention of cases imported from foreign countries.
Ao Ieong said that consequently, the local government has decided that with effect from 00:00 on Tuesday local residents, visitors, non-resident workers or non-local students enrolled in Macau who have been in any area outside China – i.e. outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan – within the 14 days prior to their entry into Macau have to stay under medical surveillance for 14 days in a place designated by the Health Bureau.
Ao Ieong said that SSM medical staff members at the city’s border checkpoints will carry out risk assessments on all arrivals. If the arrival has been to a COVID-19 high-risk foreign country, he or she will be transferred to the Pousada Marina Infante hotel or even the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane for 14-days quarantine, depending on medical officials’ assessments on the degree of health risk potentially posed by the arrival. A person assessed to pose a particularly high risk will be taken to the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane.
Ao Ieong said that if a local resident has been to a foreign country with a health risk that is “not so high”, he or she could choose to go into 14-day home quarantine.
Ao Ieong pointed out that those in home quarantine found to have breached the official requirements will be moved to mandatory quarantine at another facility and be held criminally responsible.
Ao Ieong also urged all arrivals to be truthful about their health status and travel history when presenting a self-filled health declaration e-form, warning that those who lie or fail to disclose complete information will be held criminally responsible, facing a prison term of up to six months or a fine.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © Government Information Bureau (GCS)