Addressing Friday’s press conference about Macao’s novel coronavirus situation, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public Conde S. Januário Hospital Centre, announced that Macao residents who plan to return home from a list of six countries via Hong Kong using the Macao government’s special ferry service must present a nucleic acid test (NAT) certificate confirming that they have tested negative for COVID-19 before they can board the ferry from Hong Kong’s airport back to Macao.
The new measure took effect on Friday. The six countries comprise Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines.
According to Lo, the certificate must be issued by an officially recognised medical institution of the country of departure. Lo said that the measure was needed to protect the safety of ferry crew members and the passengers.
Since June 17, the Macao government has been running the special ferry link for Macao residents arriving at Hong Kong’s airport from overseas to be able to return to Macao without having to undergo Hong Kong’s mandatory 14-day quarantine. The special ferry service links Macao’s Taipa Ferry Terminal with the Hong Kong airport’s SkyPier.
The measure came after the Macao government confirmed a Filipino national holding a Macao ID card on Thursday night as having been infected with the novel coronavirus disease after he had returned to Macao from Manila via Hong Kong’s airport using the special ferry service.
Lo said that the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) has informed those who have signed up for the Macao government’s special ferry service returning from any of the six countries about its new requirement for them to obtain a NAT certificate there before returning to Macao.
US not [yet] included
When asked by a reporter why the new measure does not cover those returning from the United States, which has confirmed the highest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide, the Health Bureau’s (SSM) Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou said that a large number of people in the US have been discovered to have been infected with the novel coronavirus disease due to a higher COVID-19 testing capability.
Leong noted that the Macao government has formulated the list of countries covered by the new measure after considering from which countries primarily those who have recently been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus disease in Macao and Hong Kong have returned. Leong pointed out most of the COVID-19 cases confirmed in Hong Kong recently have been imported ones, and almost all of them have come from South Asian countries and Southeast Asian countries instead of European countries and the US.
Leong pointed out that a relatively small number of COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia due to their relatively weak COVID-19 testing capability and their measures and criteria on diagnosing COVID-19 patients, which means that a number of people there who have in reality been infected with the novel coronavirus have not been confirmed to have been infected with the disease. Leong said that therefore the Macao government has decided that the new measure cover the six countries with the aim of ensuring that those returning to Macao via the special ferry link aren’t carriers of the disease.
Leong said that the Macao government could change the list of countries at any time based on the latest development of the COVID-19 epidemic in various countries in the world.
Since the middle of April, all air passengers departing for Macao must present a certificate issued by medical institutions from where they depart confirming that they have tested negative for COVID-19 before they are allowed to board the plane.
Lo also said during the press conference that the Health Bureau has determined that there is currently no need for the new NAT certificate measure to cover the special ferry service passengers returning from all countries based on its latest assessment on the “dynamic” development of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lo also pointed out that Hong Kong’s airport has international flights from many countries all over the world so that it would not be feasible for the new NAT certificate measure to cover all countries.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)