The government said on Thursday it has contingency plans in place for the provision of medical services and epidemic prevention measures, considering the large flow of visitors expected to Macau over the Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays which start late next week.
According to a statement by the Macau Government Information Bureau (GCS), the government is strictly complying with guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) concerning preventive measures, following the outbreak of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, capital of Hebei province, popularly known as “Wuhan virus”.
The government will provide updates to the public in a timely manner regarding its strategies for the prevention and, if needed, control of the spread of the coronavirus that has been newly-identified in follow-up work as a result of the Wuhan outbreak, the statement said.
On Wednesday, the government’s Interdepartmental Taskforce on Pneumonia of Unknown Cause held a meeting to review the city’s disease- control preparations for the CNY holidays, the statement noted.
Response measures discussed there included, according to the statement, the issuance of guidelines for mainland students and workers who are based in Macau; organisation of explanatory and promotional seminars for social service institutions, schools and associations; enhancement of temperature monitoring screening at ferry terminals and land- border checkpoints; the close monitoring of the local stocks of protective face masks; the continuing provision of technical support for casinos for the installation of temperature-monitoring facilities; and the strengthening of disease prevention and control measures during large-scale public events.
Updating the public
The government on Wednesday also held a press conference to update the public on the latest scientific findings regarding the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak. A Macau government team visited Wuhan earlier this week to learn more about the latest developments there, the statement said.
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Director Lam Chong, one of those who paid the fact-finding trip to Wuhan, said experts there had provided details on the development of the viral outbreak, measures to control the spread of the virus, and appropriate treatment for infected patients.
As of Monday, there were 41 patients recorded in Wuhan as having contracted an illness caused by the newly-identified coronavirus. The 41 patients included one fatality, while six were in a critical condition and seven had been released from hospital. The patients mostly had fever and cough in the early stage, with a few suffering from breathing difficulties. The patients most seriously affected were mostly older people or those with pre-existing illness, Lam pointed out.
Currently, further pathogenic and epidemiological investigations are ongoing, according to the statement. The national public health authorities have conducted environmental assessments at the Wuhan wholesale food market where some of those infected had been working. No samples from animal products sold there had been found to contain the identified coronavirus, Lam said during Wednesday’s press conference.
‘Limited’ potential of human-to-human transmission
The WHO had previously said that there appeared to be only ‘limited’ potential for human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. Lam said that in other situations where there appeared to have been animal-to-human transmission of a virus – such as H5N1 avian flu – there had also been a limited but extremely low potential for human-to-human transmission.
During the period from 5 p.m. on Tuesday to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the Health Bureau (SSM) received notice of a case involving a 4-year-old boy visiting from Wuhan who complained of fever and respiratory problems. The boy was diagnosed with Type A influenza related to seasonal factors, the statement said.
Since 1 January, the local government has been informed by local medical institutions of about 13 patients with a fever and respiratory problems who had been in Wuhan in the previous 14 days. Tests confirmed that none of the 13 patients had the Wuhan pneumonia virus, the statement said.
According to the statement, Macau has sufficient reserve stocks of medical supplies such as masks, hazardous materials suits, and disinfection agents. “There are also adequate facilities for keeping in isolation anyone thought to have been infected by that virus, and for treating them if necessary,” the statement said.
The Health Bureau’s Public Health Laboratory already has diagnostic tests that can detect if a patient has been infected with the pathogen identified in the Wuhan outbreak, the statement said.