Non-resident workers & non-local students to be covered by free COVID-19 jabs

2021-01-26 03:19     Comment:0

Addressing yesterday’s press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus situation, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, said that in addition to local residents, non-resident workers and non-local students will be covered by the government’s free-of-charge COVID-19 vaccination drive, which will be rolled out later this year.

“After assessing the situation, the Macau government has preliminarily decided that the [COVID-19] jabs will be free of charge for [local] residents, non-resident workers, and non-local students enrolled in Macau, covering all residents and all those who work or study in Macau,” Lo said.

Lo also said that the government has decided that its free-of-charge COVID-19 vaccination drive will also cover non-resident workers and non-local students as this would be beneficial to Macau’s COVID-19 prevention and control work. Lo said that COVID-19 vaccines will not only protect those who have got jabs but also create COVID-19 herd immunity.

Lo also reaffirmed that the government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme will start in the current quarter.

“The government has been carrying out a lot of preparatory tasks for its administration of [COVID-19] vaccines, such as purchasing, delivery, insurance and administration procedures, which are going on smoothly,” Lo said, adding that the government “will roll out the administration of [COVID-19] vaccines in the first quarter of this year, don’t worry about this [the possible postponement of the timetable]”.

Lo admitted that the government does not have an exact timetable as to when Macau’s first COVID-19 vaccines will be available. But he underlined that despite “the possible delay of the shipments” of the vaccines, the government was “confident” that its COVID-19 vaccination drive can be rolled out in the current quarter, thanks to a string of preparatory measures and its constant communication with the respective vaccine suppliers.

Lo pledged that the government will be “fully transparent” in announcing its latest information about the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U said last week that the Macau government was studying the possibility of buying insurance for all those who get COVID-19 jabs in its novel coronavirus vaccination programme.

When asked by the media why the government plans to set up an insurance scheme for its COVID-19 vaccination programme while underlining that the COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered to Macau would be safe, Lo said that the planned insurance scheme aimed to provide better protection for all those who have the COVID-19 jabs by providing cover for those who might suffer an adverse event after getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Lo underlined that COVID-19 vaccines can reduce the risk of infection with the novel coronavirus, and the risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms if they have already been infected. Lo said that if people who have had COVID-19 jabs have already been infected and come down with symptoms, the vaccines can still reduce the probability of suffering a serious condition or dying from the disease.

Lo underlined that “there is nothing that involves no risk at all”, adding that the government cannot rule out the possibility of the occurrence of rare adverse events in its COVID-19 vaccination drive.

‘No huge & shocking conspiracy behind’

“We cannot say that the government wants to achieve something by buying insurance for all those who get the COVID-19 jabs. Residents have their own right to choose [whether to be vaccinated or not].The insurance scheme will not necessarily increase residents’ incentives to get inoculated,” Lo said.

Lo underlined that the benefits of people being inoculated against COVID-19 are larger than the possible side effects, adding that COVID-19 vaccinations have got off the ground in many countries in the world. “If one new thing does not create benefits – or its benefits are smaller than the possible side effects, the situation would be quickly discovered and this new thing should no longer exist in the world,” Lo said, adding that the government’s planned insurance scheme for its COVID-19 vaccination programme does not “as someone might think have a huge and shocking conspiracy behind it”. Lo said that the government does not claim that Macau’s COVID-19 prevention and control work will only be successful after all the people in the city are inoculated against the novel coronavirus.

Macau has not recorded a new COVID-19 case for three days, while no local case has been confirmed in 302 days.

Macau has recorded 47 COVID-19 cases since January 22 last year, 45 of which have been classified as imported, while two cases have been classified as “connected to imported cases”. The 47th case was confirmed on Friday. The patient is a 43-year-old local woman who took an Air Macau flight to Macau from Tokyo on Thursday night.

The first 46 patients have all been cured and discharged from hospital, and no fatalities have been reported in Macau. The 47th COVID-19 patient, who is asymptomatic, is undergoing treatment in the isolation ward of the public hospital.

180 million ‘government facemasks’ sold

Meanwhile, the 26th round of the government’s facemask purchase scheme will start tomorrow. The facemasks sold under the scheme are colloquially known as “government facemasks”.

Under the facemask purchase scheme, each local resident, non-resident worker and non-local student enrolled in Macau’s higher education institutions are entitled to buy 30 facemasks at the fixed price of 24 patacas every 30 days at designated outlets upon presentation of their original Macau ID card, work permit or student card.

Under the 30-day scheme, parents or legal guardians are entitled to buy 30 facemasks for each child aged between three and eight.

There will be 83 outlets for the upcoming round of the scheme which runs until February 25, comprising 57 designated pharmacies, eight health centres in Macau and Taipa and two health stations in Coloane run by the Health Bureau (SSM), as well as 16 community association venues.

Lo said during the press conference that 180 million facemasks have been sold under the government’s facemask purchase scheme since its launch in January last year.

No Brazilian, South African or UK strains in Macau

Meanwhile, Lo also announced that Macau’s 47th COVID-19 patient – who had departed from Dubai to Tokyo via Singapore last Tuesday – has not been infected with the mutant strains of the novel coronavirus in Brazil, South Africa or the United Kingdom that are more contagious.

According to Lo, the woman has been infected with the D614G strain, the now most common one spreading in the world. Lo also said that after analysing the woman’s antibodies and her current condition, the Health Bureau has concluded that she was infected with the novel coronavirus at least three weeks ago.

Alvis Lo Iek Long, one of the three clinical directors of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, addresses yesterday’s press conference about the city’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. 

Photo: Tony Wong

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