Macao has asked health experts in Beijing to come and advise about opening a travel bubble with Hong Kong – though no date has been set for their visit.
“We [the Macao government] have invited an expert team from the National Health Commission (NHC) to visit Macao to examine our Covid-19 prevention work, but the date for their visit is yet to be decided,” Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U said.
“After the expert team arrives in Macao, we will first ask them to assess Macao’s Covid-19 prevention work. Afterwards, we want them to give us their opinions and views about the [possible] border opening between Hong Kong and Macao, with the hope of enabling the border opening to get off the ground as soon as possible.”
According to Ao Ieong, the Macao government also aims for the NHC findings on Macao’s Covid-19 prevention work to enable the further relaxation of Covid-19 measures for the current quarantine-free travel between Macao and the mainland to be rolled out.
The policy secretary said that the schedule for the experts’ visit to Macao has yet to be decided.
Macao announced last month that “conditional” exemptions from the government’s quarantine requirement for arrivals from Hong Kong were to be implemented in phases if the neighbouring city had zero new local Covid-19 cases for at least 28 consecutive days.
However, the government said early this month that its possible quarantine-free travel arrangements for arrivals from Hong Kong could only get off the ground after its discussions with the mainland’s health authorities have been completed.
Currently, Macao has quarantine-free travel only with the mainland – and travellers have to present a nucleic acid test certificate confirming that they have tested negative for Covid-19 within the past seven days.
Currently, the Macao Health Bureau (SSM) only classifies Macao and the Chinese mainland as Covid-19 low-risk areas. Hong Kong is currently classified as an area with a low-to-medium Covid-19 risk, while Taiwan is classified as a Covid-19 medium-risk area. All foreign countries are classified as Covid-19 high-risk areas.
The SSM reaffirmed last week that quarantine-free travel arrangements for those arriving in Macao from Hong Kong could only get off the ground as long as it did not affect the current quarantine-free travel between Macao and the mainland.
In related news, Ao Ieong said that the number of people making an appointment per day to be inoculated against Covid-19 has decreased to only around 2,000, as opposed to the peak around a few weeks ago when about 10,000 people on average made a vaccine appointment daily.
Despite the fact that Covid-19 vaccinations in Macao are voluntary, Ao Ieong urged residents to assume their “social responsibility” by getting inoculated against the novel coronavirus so as to help create herd immunity in Macao as soon as possible, with the aim of facilitating the gradual easing of Covid-19 measures in Macao and travel restrictions between Macao and regions other than the mainland.
The Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre has announced that as of 4 pm yesterday, 461,931 doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered to 271,308 people in Macao, comprising 79,024 who had received their first jab and 192,284 who had received their second jab.
Macao’s Covid-19 vaccination rate stood at 39.8 per cent as of 4 pm yesterday – meaning nearly 40 per cent of the population has received at least one jab.
The SSM said early this month that Macao would need to reach a vaccination rate of at least 80 per cent in order to achieve Covid-19 herd immunity.
Over 80 per cent of vaccinees have chosen Sinopharm jabs in Macao since the launch of the vaccination programme in February. The Macao government has so far purchased a total of 700,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, 500,000 of which were delivered to Macao early this year.
The SSM said last week that the remaining stock of Sinopharm jabs in Macao would only be sufficient for inoculations for two more weeks.
Ao Ieong said that the Macao government has requested the manufacturer in Beijing to deliver 200,000 additional Sinopharm doses to Macao, adding that she believed that they would arrive soon.