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Health officials press for zero cases to beat Omicron variant outbreak

Fifth mass test finished, with some positive signs; more hotel rooms assume quarantine role; no citywide lockdown planned.

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Fifth mass test finished, with some positive signs; more hotel rooms assume quarantine role; no citywide lockdown planned.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:43 am

Macao’s fifth mass test since the BA.5.1 Omicron variant outbreak on 18 June drew to a close this evening, with health officials pointing to a glimmer of progress and stressing the need for more vaccinations to achieve zero cases.

By 3 pm this afternoon, 626,680 people had been sampled, most of whom were negative, although 31 pooled samples were positive.

“That’s less than in previous days,” said Leong Iek Hou, who heads up the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre. “It shows that mass testing combined with rapid antigen tests is very effective in helping to control the pandemic. 

“What we want is to end the transmission of cases, which currently number 1,215.

“Our policy regarding this virus is zero cases.The results of the fight against Omicron will depend not only on the mass tests but also the collaboration of the population. We also need to have more vaccinations to reach zero cases. We are also trying to avoid the transmission of positive cases from home residents to work and vice-versa.”

Health Bureau medical director Lei Wai Seng added: “We do not plan to change our policy regarding the tests for the entire population. We think this plan is the correct one to find positive cases and let us take measures to bring the pandemic to an end.”

Leong noted that residents with a yellow health code, which indicates they present a danger of infection, may not travel abroad until they have a green code.

Some changes have been introduced for the next round of mass testing, which starts tomorrow morning.

The operating hours of the seven caring stations will be adjusted to 6 am to 1 am tomorrow and 6 am to 6 pm on Saturday.

The opening hours of the 11 free testing stations will be adjusted to 9 am to 1 am on 8 July and 7 am to 6 pm on 9 July.

Nearly 4,000 people are now in medical observation hotels. Starting tomorrow, 470 rooms at the east wing of Grand Lisboa Palace, and 300 rooms at B1 Tower of Grand Hyatt Macau will be pressed into service as well. 

At the Grand Lisboa Hotel, more than 460 staff and 30 guests remain locked down after 13 staff tested positive for Covid-19. Health workers have so far identified 18 clusters, but have not indicated whether they are any closer to tracing Patient Zero. 

Speaking at the daily novel coronavirus briefing, officials sought to allay fears of an immediate mass lockdown.

“The rumour that we plan to lockdown Macao is false,” said Unitary Police Service public relations spokesman Cheong Kin Iam. Individuals that spread these rumours could face legal consequences.

“We have no intention to lock down the city and we have enough food in the supermarkets so residents don’t need to rush out to buy food, because many people gathering together could attract the virus.

“Regarding the government Plan of Closed Loop Management –  if we need to put it in force we will inform the population in due time.

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:43 am

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