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No let-up in mandatory NATs for frontline workers: Social Affairs Secretary

Elsie Ao Ieong U advises caution, points to outbreaks in Zhuhai and Zhongshan; however, government may reduce quarantine for foreign Grand Prix racers.

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Elsie Ao Ieong U advises caution, points to outbreaks in Zhuhai and Zhongshan; however, government may reduce quarantine for foreign Grand Prix racers.

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 12:47 am

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U has doubled-down on Macao’s tough anti-pandemic requirements, saying there are no plans to relax regular mandatory nucleic acid testing (NAT) for workers in high-risk Covid-19 key occupations.

She said various regions in mainland China, including the neighbouring province of Guangdong, are being affected by new local Covid-19 cases.

The policy secretary underlined that only after the overall Covid-19 situation in mainland China has gradually stabilised, would Macao consider easing the requirements, such as testing frequencies, of its regular mandatory NAT programme for high-risk Covid-19 key occupations.

Since Macao returned to its normalised Covid-19 prevention and control period on 8 August from its outbreak that began on 18 June and started to subside in late July, the Health Bureau (SSM) has added more occupations and professions to its regular mandatory NAT programme for high-risk Covid-19 key occupations. 

Around four dozen occupations and professions are covered by the current version of the regular mandatory NAT programme. They are subject to different testing frequencies depending on their respective Covid-19 risks, namely a NAT every day or every other day, a NAT plus a rapid antigen test (RAT) every four days, and a NAT every seven days.

The SSM noted earlier this month that the regular mandatory NAT programme for high-risk Covid-19 key occupations currently covers around 190,000 people.

Ao Ieong said that although Macao’s current Covid-19 situation is stable, new local Covid-19 cases are being reported in various cities and regions in mainland China.

In particular, Ao Ieong noted, various cities in Guangdong, such as Zhuhai and Zhongshan, reported new local Covid-19 cases since early this month.

The policy secretary also used herself as an example, saying that yesterday she had undergone a daily NAT for three days and a daily RAT for two days.

Ao Ieong also said that the government was studying the feasibility of shortening its hotel quarantine period for foreign racers competing in this year’s Macau Grand Prix (MGP), which will take place on 17-20 November.

The government said earlier this week that around 10 foreign motorcycle riders were expected to compete. 

Currently, all those arriving in Macao from Hong Kong and Taiwan or foreign countries must undergo seven days’ hotel quarantine.

Ao Ieong said that Macao was still studying detailed arrangements for Covid-19 measures to be implemented for foreign racers upon their arrival.

Ao Ieong said that the government has still not come up with a final decision on the matter. She said that one of the possible options is that foreign racers would only be required to undergo hotel quarantine for four or five days, after which they would be subject to “closed-loop management” measures for the remaining two or three days, during which they would be required to undergo a daily NAT.

Ao Ieong also underlined the need for the use of venue codes even though Macao currently does not have a local Covid-19 outbreak.

People entering various premises and facilities in the city are currently required to scan contact-tracing-function QR codes, with their Macao Health Code mobile app in order to record their visit.

Ao Ieong said that “everybody may think that the use of venue codes seems useless when Macao does not have a local Covid-19 outbreak”. She noted that in case Macao reports new local Covid-19 cases, the use of venue codes would be very useful for health officials to quickly identify affected people in their investigations, The Macau Post Daily reported.

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 12:47 am

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