A string of emergency measures are being rapidly implemented to strengthen the management of the city’s Covid-19 quarantine hotels.
– Quarantine at different types of quarantine hotels, depending on arrivals’ risk levels
– Robots to provide contactless services to guests in quarantine;
– Compulsory prior booking for a guestroom at quarantine hotels before departing for Macao;
– More frequent Covid-19 tests carried out during the quarantine period.
The new measures were announced by Liz Lam Tong Hou, who heads the Public Relations Division of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), and Health Bureau Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou, in the wake of Macao’s recent Covid-19 clusters which originated at quarantine hotels.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year, around 53,000 people have undergone hotel quarantine in Macao, Lam said, adding that 12 quarantine hotels were operating during the peak – which was in March last year – when around 5,000 people were quarantined at the same time.
Lam said that 25 Covid-19 positive cases (22 confirmed cases and three relapse cases) were detected when the patients were in quarantine, which she said has been highly conducive to the prevention of a Covid-19 community transmission in Macao.
Macao has not recorded a new local Covid-19 case for 33 consecutive days after the latest case was confirmed on 9 October. Macao’s Covid-19 tally stands at 77, without any fatalities. The 77 cases comprise 60 imported cases and 17 cases “connected to imported ones”.
Leong said that after comprehensive reviews of the operations of the city’s quarantine hotels, the SSM has identified certain problems that were adversely affecting the city’s Covid-19 prevention and control work. Leong said the SSM has drawn up five measures to improve the management of the city’s quarantine hotels.
- Health Bureau officials have drafted a more rigorous set of guidelines on Covid-19 prevention and control for staff at quarantine hotels, Leong said, adding that the bureau will also strengthen its training of staff members in quarantine hotels for infection control measures.
- In future, MGTO officials will be tasked with ensuring that quarantine hotels always implement Covid-19 measures and guidelines required by the SSM. MGTO officials will ensure that all staff members of quarantine hotels will undergo Covid-19 nucleic acid tests (NATs) regularly and that hotel managers will always carry out “closed-loop management” measures for staff members working in Covid-19 high-risk positions.
- Leong said that Public Security Police and Macao Customs Service officers will ensure that those undergoing hotel quarantine comply with the official Covid-19 medical observation requirements. The officers will ensure that those in quarantine do not leave their guestrooms. Leong added that officers stationed in quarantine hotels will take immediate law enforcement action on anyone who violates the Covid-19 rules.
- Arrivals from areas affected by Covid-19 will be transferred to different types of quarantine facilities. According to Leong, those who have been identified as having a “very” high risk of having been infected with Covid-19 will be transferred to the SSM’s Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane, while those arriving from Covid-19 high-risk areas will be transferred to “special” quarantine hotels – a new type of quarantine hotel – and those arriving from Covid-19 medium-risk areas will be transferred to other quarantine hotels.
- Arrivals from Covid-19 high-risk areas will have to undergo a NAT every day during the first 10 days of their quarantine, in order to detect those who have been infected with Covid-19 as soon as possible.
According to Leong, all quarantine-hotel staff working in Covid-19 high-risk positions are already being subject to “closed-loop management”, which means that they are not allowed to enter the local community while on duty and even for a period of time after leaving their Covid-19 high-risk positions.
The requirement for arrivals to book a guestroom in advance will be implemented for all quarantine hotels in the city.
Lam pointed out that the city’s quarantine hotels currently comprise government-designated hotels and hotels that arrivals have chosen themselves.
Lam said that a new type of quarantine hotel – “special” quarantine hotels – will be set up, which will be used for those arriving from Covid-19 high-risk areas.
Lam said that after an assessment with health officials, MGTO officials have decided that the Treasure Hotel, which is next to the airport, will be used as a “special” quarantine hotel, where renovation and maintenance work is being carried out so that the hotel will meet official specifications.
Lam said that currently, those arriving in Macao from Covid-19 high-risk areas include those who catch a flight or a connecting flight from Singapore to Macao, who will be transferred to the Treasure Hotel, which she said was expected to come into use before the beginning of next month.
Lam also said that robots will be employed to provide contactless services to guests in quarantine hotels, to minimise contact between staff members working in Covid-19 high-risk positions and guests. The contactless services will include temperature checks, disinfection and delivering necessities and other items to the guests.
Lam said that the robots are being tested, adding that they will come into use at the Treasure Hotel first before being made available at other quarantine hotels.
Lam also announced that from Saturday next week, everyone – whether local or non-local – who is required to undergo hotel quarantine upon arrival in Macao will have to present proof that they have booked a guestroom at a quarantine hotel, when checking in for a flight to Macao or boarding a shuttle bus from Hong Kong to Macao via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
According to Lam, guests can book a self-selected hotel now, and can start to book a guestroom at government-designated hotels on Monday next week.
Leong said that those who will be transferred to the Public Health Clinical Centre due to having a “very” high risk of Covid-19 refers to those who have been infected with the novel coronavirus within the past three months but have since recovered. Leong said that they are classified as having a “very” high Covid-19 risk because they are likely to test positive for the virus again in a NAT for a period of time after their recovery.
Leong also explained that arrivals from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and areas affected by Covid-19 in the mainland will be transferred to other quarantine hotels rather than the Treasure Hotel which will be used as a “special” quarantine hotel, The Macau Post Daily reported.