Addressing Thursday’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, announced that the Macau Health Bureau’s (SSM) nucleic acid testing for Macau-Zhuhai cross-border commuters, which started on Thursday, will be extended from today to other Macau residents who need to cross the Macau-Zhuhai border checkpoints but do not hold a Zhuhai residence permit.
However, Lo reminded residents that as the Guangdong government has not changed its 14-day quarantine imposed on arrivals from Macau, local residents who are not covered by the various exemptions from Guangdong’s 14-day quarantine requirement will not be exempted from the quarantine measure despite having undergone the nucleic acid testing by the Macau Health Bureau and tested negative for COVID-19.
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.
The Macau government announced on March 27 that certain groups of Macau people could apply to the authorities at the Zhuhai border checkpoints for exemption from the 14-day quarantine requirement, such as: 1) those who live in Zhuhai but work or study in Macau – provided that they hold a Zhuhai residence permit; 2) those aged at least 70 and those no older than 14, pregnant women, the disabled and the chronically sick (who can apply for the exemption despite not holding a mainland residence permit); and 3) those seeking medical treatment in Zhuhai. However, all of them must still undergo a nucleic acid test, which has a validity of seven days, before being allowed to enter Guangdong, and they must also sign a declaration confirming that within the past 14 days they have not been in Hong Kong, Taiwan or a foreign country.
The Macau government announced on April 25 that all secondary school teachers, as well as all pupils commuting between Macau and Zhuhai, must undergo nucleic acid testing, in preparation for the resumption of classes in senior (F4 to F6) and junior secondary schools (F1 to F3) on May 4 and May 11 (Monday) respectively. According to the April 25 announcement, teachers and other secondary school staff members who live in Macau were to undergo the nucleic acid test once, while local teachers and pupils commuting between Macau and Zhuhai have to undergo the test every seven days.
The Macau government announced on May 1 that starting from May 3, Macau pupils and teachers who live in Zhuhai or Zhongshan are exempted from the 14-day quarantine measure imposed by Guangdong, as the phased resumption of school classes in Macau was to start on May 4. According to the May 1 announcement, the pupils and teachers 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. The new arrangement means that Macau pupils and teachers without a mainland residence permit are also exempted from the quarantine requirement.
The Macau government’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre announced during Wednesday’s daily press conference that the Macau government had decided to launch 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, as the nucleic acid testing posts at the mainland-Macau checkpoints in Zhuhai will close today. The tests have a validity of seven days.
15,000 cross-border commuters
According to Wednesday’s announcement, the tests are carried out at the Taipa Ferry Terminal in Pac On daily between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. The measure is expected to involve 15,000 cross-border commuters. The test results will be available after 24 hours.
During Thursday’s press conference, Lo said that after assessing that the Health Bureau’s nucleic acid testing, which started on Thursday morning, was carried out smoothly, the bureau has decided that the testing will be extended to other Macau residents who need to cross the Macau-Zhuhai border checkpoints, so as to “meet their need for cross-border activities”. Lo said the new arrangement meant that the testing is now not only limited to the Macau residents who hold a Zhuhai residence permit and Macau cross-border pupils and teachers.
According to Lo, other Macau residents (other than those with a Zhuhai residence permit and pupils and teachers) can start to make an appointment from 9 a.m. today, before their tests start at 12 p.m.
Up to 6,000 tests per day
Lo noted that the Health Bureau can test up to 6,000 people per day in its nucleic acid testing programme. He underlined that the 6,000 places will first be given to the Macau residents who are cross-border workers or pupils, urging other Macau residents to only undergo the test if absolutely needed.
Lo also pointed out that the first test is free of charge for all Macau residents, but follow-up tests will cost 180 patacas each. However, pupils and teachers are exempt from the fee.
Lo underlined that the Guangdong government’s current quarantine measures imposed on arrivals from Macau have not changed, adding that therefore a negative result from the Health Bureau’s nucleic acid test does not mean that the person will then be exempted from the quarantine measure. He pointed out that only the groups of Macau people mentioned in the March 27 announcement are exempted from the quarantine requirement. “Residents have to be clear whether they are exempted from the 14-day quarantine requirement [by Guangdong],” he said.
Lo also said that the Health Bureau has decided not to choose the Barrier Gate checkpoint as the location for the nucleic acid testing in order to prevent crowds there, adding that therefore it has chosen the Taipa Ferry Terminal due to its size and also convenience for Macau residents.
‘Golden Buses’ back in business
Meanwhile, HZM Bus, the operator of the so-called “Golden Buses”, announced on Thursday that it will resume its service across the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) today. The bus service was suspended on April 6 in the wake of the then deteriorating COVID-19 situation.
Initially, the company will only run six trips in either direction between 10:30 a.m. and 8:10 p.m. However, Health Bureau officials pointed out on Thursday that the 14-day quarantine measures in both Hong Kong and Macau for arrivals from either city – apart from rare exceptions – remain in force. This means that a person who travels from Macau to Hong Kong will have to go into 14-days of quarantine there upon arrival. Upon returning from Hong Kong the same person will have to undergo another 14-days quarantine here.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)