Further details have emerged of official plans which have been drawn up to enforce a potential city-wide lockdown in the event of a massive Covid-19 outbreak.
Senior officials briefed representatives from social service organisations, schools and the health sector at the Macao East Asian Games Dome in Cotai yesterday.
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U said that in case specific areas or the entire city were to be locked down and government-support teams were unable to deliver daily necessities, each household would be allowed to send a representative to supermarkets in their respective neighbourhoods.
The policy secretary also reaffirmed that the local government has submitted to the central government the number and types of medical workers who would be needed in the event of different levels of Covid-19 situations in Macao under the local government’s worst-case contingency plan.
If needed, she said, Macao would ask the central government to provide support.
The government published the first draft version of its contingency plan for a massive Covid-19 outbreak earlier this month.
Ao Ieong noted that in case the highly transmissible Omicron variant starts to spread in the community, the number of people infected with Covid-19 would soar with a corresponding rise in the number of serious cases and deaths.
Ao Ieong said that Macao has learnt from the Covid-19 experiences in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taiwan, and has designed plans for the possible occurrence of different levels of Covid-19 situations in Macao.
Ao Ieong said that the possible implementation of the government’s Covid-19 plan would need civil society’s support, particularly from the social service, education and health sectors. She urged representatives from the sectors to understand the government’s Covid-19 contingency plan and provide suitable training for their staff.
Health Bureau (SSM) Director Alvis Lo Iek Long said that according to the Covid-19 contingency plan, the government would impose citywide Covid-19 prevention measures in case Macao reports new local Covid-19 cases, such as tightened measures for entering and leaving the city, the closure of certain public venues, school class suspensions, the cancellation of all large events, and a reduced schedule of public buses.
In the next phase, according to the Covid-19 contingency plan, “Covid-19 area control” measures would also be activated for specific areas or neighbourhoods. In case “Covid-19 area control” measures are implemented, the affected buildings will be locked down, meaning that residents would be barred from leaving home unless they undergo a Covid-19 nucleic acid test (NAT) and would need to collect daily necessities at designated points in the respective neighbourhoods.
In related news, Lo urged residents to learn how to carry out a Covid-19 rapid antigen test with a test kit themselves while Macao is not affected by Covid-19 transmissions.
Lo noted that rapid antigen tests have been widely carried out in neighbouring regions hard hit by a massive Covid-19 outbreak.
Lo said that Covid-19 rapid antigen tests enable residents to test themselves for the novel coronavirus using a test kit at home, and the results are normally available in 15 minutes. Rapid antigen tests also enable a lower level of movement of people in the community as residents do not need to leave home to undergo a NAT.
However, Lo also underlined that rapid antigen tests are merely supplementary tools to NATs, meaning that rapid tests cannot replace NATs, because they have a lower level of sensitivity and specificity.
During yesterday’s briefing, Social Welfare Bureau Director Wilson Hon Wai noted that according to the Covid-19 contingency plan, the government would activate its home isolation arrangements if Macao has more than 5,000 new Covid-19 patients.
Education and Youth Development Bureau Director Kong Chi Meng said that local schools would need to devise contingency plans for home online classes in case many residents need to undergo home isolation during a serious Covid-19 outbreak. In this scenario, Kong said, teachers would need to participate in the city’s fight against Covid-19 while continuing to teach their students online.
Ao Ieong said that the government is preparing a list of foreign countries that have close relations with Macao and whose nationals could be allowed to enter Macao, citing Portugal as one example.
With just a few exceptions, foreign nationals have been barred from entering Macao since March 2020, in order to protect the local population from the risk of Covid-19 infection through imported cases.