Addressing Sunday’s daily press conference about Macau’s latest novel coronavirus situation, Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong said that for non-resident workers who commute between Macau and Zhuhai every day and whose continued work here is considered necessary by their employers, then the latter should provide them with temporary accommodation in Macau so that they won’t need to commute between the two cities during the current Wuhan novel coronavirus threat.
Lei also said that for those non-resident workers whose work is not absolutely needed at the moment then their employers should arrange for them to remain in Zhuhai for the time being and not come back to Macau until further notice.
Wuhan virus epidemic subsides
Lei said that the measure aimed to further reduce the flow of people travelling between the two cities so as to reduce the risk of cross-infection.
Lei made the announcement during a 90-minute press conference on Sunday evening at the Health Bureau (SSM) next to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, in the wake of Macau’s eighth case of the novel coronavirus announced on Sunday morning as being a local woman. It is the first time that a local resident has been infected with the virus. All the seven previous patients are from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. All of them are still in hospital.
Lei said that the government had discussed the issue of non-resident workers commuting daily between Macau and Zhuhai with representatives from the city’s major business associations and from an association of employment agencies hiring workers from the mainland.
Lei said he had told the associations to urge local employers to reduce the number of non-resident workers commuting between the two cities every day by arranging accommodation for those in Macau whose work is essential for their business operations.
Informed sources told the Macau Post Daily that the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Zhuhai stood at 47 last night.
Lei said last week during the daily press conference that currently some 35,000 of Macau’s non-resident workers live in Zhuhai and are commuting between the two cities every day. Macau has a population of nearly 680,000, which includes about 190,000 non-resident workers, about two-thirds of them from the Chinese mainland.
During Sunday’s press conference, Chio Song Un, who heads the Planning and Operations Department of the Public Security Police (PSP), said that the police recorded 1.53 million entries and exits at the city’s eight border checkpoints during the seven-day Chinese New Year holiday period (from January 24 to 30) – 218,000 per day on average, a 61.3 per cent drop compared to the corresponding period last year.
Chio said that the number of entries and exits over the past seven days has been decreasing – 182,000 per day on average over the past seven days. Among the 182,000 entries and exits per day on average, 55,000 were local residents, 56,000 visitors, and 70,000 non-resident workers (35,000 entries and 35,000 exits), according to Chio.
Gaming operators back accommodation measure
According to a statement jointly issued by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) and the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) Sunday night, officials of the two bureaus held a meeting with representatives from the city’s six gaming operators to discuss the government’s proposed arrangement concerning the provision of temporary accommodation in Macau for non-resident workers. The statement said that the six gaming operators support the arrangement.
According to the statement, the Associação de Agências de Emprego de Capital da China (Macau) also told the government on Sunday that it supports the government’s arrangement and would help local employers implement the arrangement.
During Sunday’s press conference, Lo Iek Long, a consultant pulmonologist at the public hospital, said that the Health Bureau has discovered that the novel coronavirus virus can also be transmitted by patients’ faeces, as shown in cases recorded in Macau. According to Lo, even though one of the eight patients had tested negative for the virus twice through swab samples taken from the throat following a certain period of treatment, the patient’s faeces sample still tested positive for the virus four days later.
Lo pointed out that the 2003 SARS virus and the MERS virus can be transmitted by patients’ faeces. Lo said that after patients’ faeces samples tested positive for the novel coronavirus virus in the United States and Shenzhen recently, the Health Bureau also found that five of the eight patients in Macau through faeces samples also tested positive for the novel coronavirus
Lo said that while it has been confirmed that the coronavirus virus can be transmitted in two ways, namely via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or due to people having touched items polluted by the virus and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth with their hands, the cases in the United States, Shenzhen and Macau have revealed the possibility of faeces-to-mouth transmission of the novel coronavirus virus – when a person touches items polluted by a patient’s faeces and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
Lo said that therefore the Health Bureau would need to discuss and decide whether to implement new criteria for whether to discharge a novel coronavirus virus patient following treatment and apparent recovery – i.e. discharging those patients whose throat culture and faeces samples tested negative for the virus.
Health Bureau Director Lei Chin Ion said that the local government has reported its findings on the matter in Macau to an international medical academic journal.
Lo said that the findings show that hospital cleaners could also possibly be infected with the novel coronavirus virus via patients’ faeces so that they would also need to follow and act in strict line with protective measures when handling patients’ faeces.
During Sunday’s press conference, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U, who oversees the government’s health service portfolio, reaffirmed that the public administration will only provide basic and limited services during the five working days this week. She again urged residents to avoid leaving home unless necessary. She urged Macau people who live in Zhuhai not to travel between the two cities.
Ao Ieong also said that five million facemasks were sold during the first round of the government’s mask purchase scheme at a fixed price for local residents and non-resident workers, which ended on Saturday. The government said last month that it would order 20 million facemasks, not all of which have yet been delivered to Macau. In the second round, which started on Sunday, the arrangement is the same as in the first round – both local residents and non-resident workers can each buy a maximum of 10 masks every 10 days.
Lei Wai Nong said that another four million facemasks will be delivered to Macau on Thursday next week, most of them from Southeast Asian countries.
In a statement Sunday morning, the government said that the city’s 8th novel coronavirus patient is a 64-year-old local unemployed woman. Her infection has been classified as an imported case, based on preliminary data, the government said.
According to Sunday’s statement, the woman came down with a fever and cough last Monday, after which she sought medical treatment at the emergency ward of the public Conde de São Januario Hospital Centre. As her condition did not improve, she sought treatment at the private Kiang Wu Hospital on Thursday and Friday. She returned to seek treatment at the private hospital on Saturday, complaining of abdominal pain. She underwent a computed tomography (CT) scan, which showed mild symptoms of pneumonia, according to the statement.
She was transferred to the public hospital on Saturday afternoon where she tested positive for the novel coronavirus. She has been placed in isolation for treatment.
The statement noted that the woman was an in-patient at Zhuhai Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine on January 10-17, having been diagnosed with herpes zoster. She told doctors that she bought live poultry from a wet market in Sanxiang town of Zhongshan city on January 22 and stayed in the town some 20 kilometres north of Macau on January 22-23.
According to the statement, the patient has moderate symptoms of novel coronavirus infection. According to her account, she had neither been in Hubei province nor in adjacent areas, nor was she aware of having been in touch with any patients diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, the statement underlined.
The statement stressed that Macau’s team for disease prevention and control has been conducting a follow-up investigation of her epidemiological history and identifying people who might have been in close contact with her.