After almost three years of labouring under a host of virus-related restrictions, Macao is finally going to ease its pandemic measures in line with mainland China, which is gradually relaxing its Covid-19 prevention and control regulations.
However, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong insisted that adjusting Macao’s Covid-19 policies would not mean that it will abandon Covid-19 prevention and control work.
The policy secretary said that Macao’s Covid-19 measures could be gradually eased because the Omicron variant is less pathogenic than the original strain.
Ao Ieong acknowledged that with Covid-19 measures to be relaxed in Macao, Covid-19 cases could be expected to become more common in the community, but she underlined that the government will certainly not allow a massive outbreak to occur.
Ao Ieong noted that scientific research has indicated that Omicron’s pathogenicity and virulence has decreased compared with the original strain of the novel coronavirus, adding that the majority of those who have been infected with Omicron are normally asymptomatic.
The policy secretary noted that those who have still come down with a fever after being infected with Omicron can normally have the symptoms subside after taking antipyretics.
Ao Ieong pointed out that Macao has been following mainland China’s Covid-19 policy, and as its health authorities are now gradually relaxing their Covid-19 measures, she said, Macao will follow accordingly.
Consequently, Ao Ieong said, the Macao government is now studying how to gradually ease its strategy in response to the new Covid-19 landscape.
For instance, the policy secretary pointed out, the Macao government has relaxed its criteria for listing buildings affected by Macao and secondary Covid-19 close contacts are no longer required to undergo quarantine. “A close contact of a close contact” of a Covid-19 patient or carrier is known as “secondary Covid-19 close contact”.
Ao Ieong urged residents to be psychologically prepared for the new Covid-19 landscape that the novel coronavirus would gradually enter the community and become more common.
The policy secretary reaffirmed that the government will certainly not allow a massive Covid-19 outbreak to occur in the city, adding that Macao’s health system is unable to tackle such a situation.
Consequently, Ao Ieong said, the government is preparing a contingency plan for tackling a possible situation in which new Covid-19 cases are detected in the community.
According to Ao Ieong, the government will strengthen outpatient services in the public health system for treatment of Covid-19 cases. In addition, online counselling will also be provided for Covid-19 cases in need.
The government will also soon release “infographics” teaching residents how to take care of themselves and take medicines used for relieving symptoms at home if they are infected with Covid-19, Ao Ieong said.
The infographics will also brief residents about the characteristics of the Omicron variant and typical symptoms of those infected with Omicron.
Ao Ieong also said that the government will start providing residents with an anti-Covid-19 package containing different items helping them tackle Covid-19, late this week or early next week.
Ao Ieong underlined that despite its weaker pathogenicity, the Omicron variant will generally have a bigger impact on senior citizens and those with chronic diseases who have been infected with Covid-19. She said that Macao’s Covid-19 vaccination rate among senior citizens is currently still not high enough, adding that there are still around 6,000 senior citizens aged 80 or over in Macao who have not been vaccinated.
The policy secretary noted that the government has been ensuring the health of residents over the past three years by battling Covid-19, urging unvaccinated people to also ensure their own health by getting inoculated.
Ao Ieong did not provide an official definition of a “massive Covid-19 outbreak”, but she added that the Macao government would need to impose citywide strict Covid-19 measures in case Macao reports 5,000 new community cases a day, such as suspension of school classes, dining-in services at restaurants, and all large-scale events.
Ao Ieong also said that if a school reports 10 new cases, it may be required to suspend classes, depending on the cases’ situation.