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Macao set to battle Covid-19 Omicron variant

Health Bureau aligning its procedures with mainland authorities, keeping a watchful eye on vaccine development as new variant spreads rapidly around the world.

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Health Bureau aligning its procedures with mainland authorities, keeping a watchful eye on vaccine development as new variant spreads rapidly around the world.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:40 am

Macao is well prepared to fight back against the fast-spreading Covid-19 Omicron variant, Health Bureau (SSM) Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou has said.

Leong said that the Macao government is paying close attention to the Omicron variant as the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a “variant of concern” last week. Leong said that according to the WHO, it is not yet clear whether the Omicron variant is more easily transmitted, or causes more severe illnesses than other Covid-19 variants including Delta.

Leong pointed out that the WHO is studying whether the Omicron variant reduces the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines that are being used worldwide.

Leong reassured the public that nucleic acid tests (NAT) carried out in Macao can detect the novel coronavirus from samples carrying the Omicron variant. In addition, Leong said, the SSM’s viral genome sequencing is able to identify whether a Covid-19 sample is carrying the Omicron variant or other Covid-19 variants.

Leong underlined that the Macao government carries out its Covid-19 prevention work in strict adherence with the nation’s novel coronavirus prevention strategy of guarding against imported cases and the possibility of new locally transmitted cases. Leong pointed out that in response to the potential threat from the Omicron variant, the Macao government has imposed a blanket entry ban on all air passengers who have been to any of eight African countries within 21 days prior to their intended entry into Macao.

The Omicron variant, which was discovered by virologists in South Africa last month, is now spreading to a rising number of countries and regions across the world.

According to international media, the Omicron variant is raising concern worldwide given its many mutations, which, according to virologists, might cause it to be more contagious than the Delta variant, and help it evade antibodies from prior infection or vaccination.

Germany’s BioNTech has announced that it is developing a vaccine tailored for the Omicron variant.

Officials from the State Council Joint Covid-19 Prevention and Control Mechanism announced yesterday that the central government is advancing its work to develop Covid-19 vaccines tailored for the Omicron variant.

Asked about the development of Covid-19 vaccines tailored for the Omicron variant, Leong said that so far no biopharmaceutical company worldwide has confirmed whether it will produce such novel coronavirus vaccines.

Leong said that if Covid-19 vaccines tailored for the Omicron variant become available, the Macao government would certainly buy them as soon as possible.

In related news, Leong announced  Macao will now separately classify asymptomatic Covid-19 cases and confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Before the new classification scheme was introduced, the SSM classified all those who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus in a NAT as confirmed Covid-19 patients since the pandemic which started early last year – regardless of whether they had come down with Covid-19 symptoms, unlike the mainland health authorities which have always separately classified asymptomatic Covid-19 cases and confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Leong said that in order to further align Macao’s Covid-19 measures with the mainland’s, the SSM will now adopt the classification and definition scheme for Covid-19 cases formulated by the central government’s State Council Joint Covid-19 Prevention and Control Mechanism team.

Leong pointed out that asymptomatic cases refer to people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in a NAT but develop no symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, reduced sense of smell or taste, and diarrhoea, and whose computed tomography (CT) scan shows no pneumonia.

According to Leong, confirmed cases refer to those with a positive Covid-19 NAT result who develop symptoms and whose CT scan shows pneumonia, or unjabbed people who have tested positive for both immunoglobulin M antibodies and immunoglobulin G antibodies (with symptoms and a CT scan showing pneumonia).

Macao has not recorded a new local Covid-19 case for 54 consecutive days after the latest case was confirmed on 9 October. Macao’s Covid-19 tally stands at 77, without any fatalities, and all were discharged from hospital.

Leong said that the SSM will not change the classification of Covid-19 cases of the 77 patients on its website, as the new classification scheme only starts now.

Leong also said that the new measure is merely a change in the classification of Covid-19 cases, which means that all those who have tested positive for Covid-19 will continue to be required to undergo isolation hospital treatment until recovery, after which they will have to undergo their recovery period isolation at the SSM’s quarantine facility in Coloane, regardless of whether they are asymptomatic.

Finally, Leong said that only 101 children aged below 12 have been inoculated against Covid-19 since Macao lowered the minimum age for Sinopharm jabs from 12 to 3 on Tuesday last week, representing a vaccination rate of a mere 0.2 per cent among those aged between 3 and 11. 

Leong underlined that the lowering of the minimum age has only been implemented for a short time, apart from the fact that examinations in local schools have been taking place in recent days.

Leong said that she did not rule out the possibility that many schoolchildren have been inoculated against seasonal flu recently, so they will have to wait two weeks before they can get their Covid-19 jabs, The Macau Post Daily reported.

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:40 am

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