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Ban of foreign visitors aims to protect locals

2 cases confirmed on Tuesday, bringing total to 13. Ban of foreign visitors also implemented.

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2 cases confirmed on Tuesday, bringing total to 13

Addressing Tuesday’s evening’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Health Bureau (SSM) Director Lei Chin Ion said that the local government has decided to ban foreign visitors from entering Macau – a measure that started to be implemented after midnight Tuesday night – because Macau’s isolation and medical facilities would not be able to cope with a large number of possible COVID-19 patients from foreign countries, adding that now the local government’s major task is to tackle the potential risk resulting from a large number of Macau students returning home from overseas.

The local government announced in a statement on Tuesday that as the novel coronavirus disease is constantly spreading across the world, starting from 00:00 Wednesday all foreign visitors are barred from entering the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR), in order to prevent imported COVID-19 cases and ensure Macau residents’ health.

An executive order signed by Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng and published in the Official Gazette (BO) on Tuesday stipulates that with effect from 00:00 Wednesday, all non-Macau residents are banned from entering Macau, except mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan residents as well as non-resident workers (informally known as “blue-card holders”) employed in Macau.

The decision is based on the national “One China” policy according to which China comprises the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

The order is based on Article 25 of the Law on the Prevention, Control and Treatment of Infectious Diseases.

The executive order also states that in the public interest, namely for the prevention, control and treatment of diseases, aid and emergency measures, and ensuring Macau’s normal operation and the provision of daily necessities for residents, Macau’s health authorities can in exceptional cases lift the entry ban on foreign nationals.

12th patient from Spain

The unprecedented entry ban was announced after the Health Bureau confirmed Macau’s 12th COVID-19 case – an imported case – Tuesday morning. According to a statement by the bureau Tuesday morning, the patient is a 47-year-old Spaniard with business interests in Macau. He arrived at 8 p.m. on Monday aboard Air Macau flight NX001 from Beijing. Upon arrival at the local airport, Health Bureau officials detected that he had a fever but no other COVID-19 symptoms. He was immediately transferred to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre and on Tuesday morning tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the statement.

Before arriving in Macau, the patient had taken Aeroflot flight SU2501 Madrid to Moscow on Sunday. In the Russian capital he boarded Aeroflot flight SU204 to Beijing.

The statement underlined that the Air Macau Beijing-to-Macau flight had only seven passengers. The Health Bureau was tracing all those who had been on the flight, the statement said. The Spaniard is undergoing treatment in the public hospital’s isolation ward.

13th patient – local student returning from UK

The government confirmed Macau’s 13th COVID-19 case – also an imported case – last night, the second case confirmed on Tuesday.

According to a statement by the Health Bureau Tuesday night, the latest COVID-19 patient is a 20-year-old female Macau resident studying in the United Kingdom. She departed from London en route to Hong Kong via Kuala Lumpur with her boyfriend on Sunday. She arrived in Hong Kong on Monday night, after which she travelled to Macau by bus with her father, who had gone to Hong Kong to meet her, via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB), while her boyfriend, a Hong Kong resident, stayed in Hong Kong, according to the statement.

Upon arrival in Macau, Health Bureau officials detected that she had a fever, after which she was transferred to the special emergency ward of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, where she tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the statement, which described her condition as “normal”. She is undergoing treatment in the public hospital’s isolation ward.

According to the statement, the patient’s boyfriend and father have been classified as close contacts. The patient’s father has been transferred to the bureau’s quarantine facility – Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane – for quarantine, while the bureau has informed Hong Kong’s health authorities about her boyfriend’s situation.

On Sunday, an Air Macau flight attendant was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus disease after arriving in Macau from a holiday in Portugal with her fiancé via Dubai and Hong Kong on Saturday. The case has been classified as an imported case.

Following the three imported cases, Macau has so far confirmed 13 COVID-19 cases, after having not confirmed a new COVID-19 case for 39 consecutive days between February 5 and March 14.

During Tuesday’s press conference at the bureau next to the public hospital, Lei underlined that the current COVID-19 epidemic across the world is “a rare event in history”. Lei said that public health experts and epidemiologists all over the world are constantly changing their epidemic prevention and control strategies due to the ongoing changes in the epidemic around the world. Lei said he believed that almost no public health experts could have expected the epidemic in Europe to become “so serious”.

Lei acknowledged that Macau residents are worried and disappointed about Macau having confirmed newly imported COVID-19 cases after having had no new cases for about 40 consecutive days.

Lei urged residents not to feel unhappy, pledging that the local government is well prepared to tackle the COVID-19 threat.

Lei underlined that the local government has been constantly carrying out preparatory tasks in anticipation of the occurrence of newly imported cases. Lei said that consequently the local government has rolled out “very strict” new measures over the past two days to tackle the COVID-19 threat. Lei urged residents to cooperate with the government when it carries out its epidemic prevention and control measures.

When asked by the media about the local government’s ban on foreign visitors from entering Macau, Lei said that Macau’s current major task was to tackle the “high” uncertainty concerning Macau’s epidemic work caused by thousands of Macau residents enrolled overseas set to return to the city.

Lei said that the local government has to focus on taking care of Macau residents, and the city’s isolation as medical facilities cannot cope with a large number of possible COVID-19 patients from foreign countries. Lei said that in case a large number of foreign COVID-19 patients would have to undergo treatment for the novel coronavirus disease in Macau, it would significantly limit local residents’ access to medical services.

Lei underlined that the possible spread of the highly infectious disease is unpredictable and unavoidable so that the local government always needs to adjust its epidemic prevention and control measures in response to the changes in the pandemic in and outside Macau. The health chief noted that the new COVID-19 cases confirmed during the past two days were imported from high-risk foreign countries, and many other countries have also imposed bans on foreign nationals from entering.

The local government announced on Monday that with effect from 00:00 Tuesday, all those who have been to a foreign country within the 14 days prior to their entry into Macau must stay under medical surveillance for 14 days in a place designated by the Health Bureau. Under the new quarantine measure, those who have been to COVID-19-high-risk foreign countries will be transferred to government-designated hotels or the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane for 14-days quarantine, depending on assessments by medical officials at the city’s checkpoints on the degree of health risk potentially posed by the arrivals, while local residents who have been to foreign countries with a health risk deemed to be “not so high” can opt for 14-day home quarantine.

(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © Government Information Bureau (GCS)

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