Ao Ieong urges jabs ASAP amid growing COVID-19 threat

2021-05-31 03:37     Comment:0

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U is urging residents to be inoculated against COVID-19 as soon as possible as the Macau government cannot ensure that the city will not be hit by new local COVID-19 cases, due to the worsening COVID-19 epidemic in neighbouring regions, particularly the fact that a number of cities in Guangdong have consistently been reporting more new locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases since earlier this month.

The policy secretary also said on Saturday that the government was planning to provide walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations at its health centres and health stations, with the aim of making it more convenient for residents to get their jabs.

Currently, walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations are only available at the new inoculation facility in the Macau Forum complex in Zape, which came into service earlier this month. Booking is required for getting COVID-19 shots at all other vaccination facilities.

Macau’s COVID-19 vaccinations are currently carried out at 15 facilities, comprising two inoculation facilities at the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, eight public health centres, two public health stations, the Macau Forum “large-sized community vaccination station”, as well as the private Kiang Wu Hospital and the University Hospital run by the private Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Taipa.

Ao Ieong made the remarks while speaking to reporters on Saturday on the sidelines of the private City University of Macau’s (CityU) Ceremony for the Conferment of Higher Degrees 2020/2021 on its main campus in Taipa.

Ao Ieong noted that the COVID-19 epidemic in Europe and the United States, where COVID-19 vaccination rates are relatively high, has been easing. However, she said that Macau is facing a renewed COVID-19 risk from the recent deterioration in the COVID-19 situation in neighbouring regions, such as Taiwan which has been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak. In particular, she said, a large number of people are travelling between Macau and Guangdong every day, but new locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases have recently been reported in Guangzhou, Foshan and Shenzhen.

In addition, Ao Ieong said, Macau’s latest COVID-19 patient has been diagnosed with carrying the Indian mutant strain – which is more contagious than the original novel coronavirus.

Macau’s 51st and latest COVID-19 case was confirmed on Monday last week, a 39-year-old local man who returned to Macau on May 19 from Nepal via Turkey, Paris and Taipei. The man has been classified as an imported COVID-19 case. It was the first time the Indian variant has been detected in Macau.

Moreover, Ao Ieong also noted that over the past few weeks Macau has reported a number of imported COVID-19 cases where the patients later tested positive for the novel coronavirus again when they were in quarantine in Macau after having previously been infected with COVID-19 and recovered elsewhere.

Ao Ieong underlined that due to these factors it was difficult for the Macau government to be able to ensure that the city will not be hit by new local COVID-19 cases, because of which it was necessary for Macau to achieve herd immunity as soon as possible. She also urged residents to continue to strictly comply with the government’s COVID-19 prevention measures.

Ao Ieong said that over the past week many more people had made an appointment to be inoculated against COVID-19 than previously, pointing out that just on one day last week 8,600 people booked a jab.

Ao Ieong revealed that the government is planning to provide walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations at its health centres and health stations so that potential vaccinees will no longer need to make an appointment in advance for a COVID-19 jab. She said that the government will announce the details of the new measure today.

In response to the latest COVID-19 epidemic situation in Guangdong, Ao Ieong urged residents to choose different checkpoints to cross the Macau-Zhuhai border so as to reduce the gathering of crowds.

Mobile app for walk-in vaccinations

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters yesterday at Hotel Royal on the sidelines of a one-day symposium hosted by the Macau Hypertension Alliance, Health Bureau (SSM) Director Alvis Lo Iek Long said that the walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations could get off the ground later this week if his bureau is able to “smoothly” complete its preparatory work for the new measure.

Under the new measure, according to Lo, potential vaccinees will be able to register for walk-in vaccinations at any health centre or health station if places are still available when they arrive there – i.e. places still available after COVID-19 jabs have been administered to all those who have made vaccination appointments for that day.

With the upcoming implementation of the new measure, Lo said that his bureau would roll out a new website and a new mobile application so that potential vaccinees can check how many places for COVID-19 vaccinations are still available at particular health centres and health stations.

Lo also noted that currently about 7,000 places for COVID-19 vaccination appointments are available at the city’s 15 inoculation facilities. The number of people getting their COVID-19 jabs per day has been steadily increasing to around 3,000 in recent days, according to Lo.

Lo noted that his bureau has allocated different numbers of places for COVID-19 vaccinations to different inoculation facilities, depending on their respective sizes and the number of health workers working there. Lo said that his bureau has been aware that some of the inoculation facilities have normally been busy, but in some places are normally still available after COVID-19 jabs have been given to all those who have made vaccination appointments for a particular day.

Consequently, Lo said that the walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations also aim to enable a fuller use of his bureau’s vaccination resources.

COVID-19 jab blood pressure requirement relaxed

Meanwhile, Lo also revealed that his bureau relaxed its blood pressure requirement two weeks ago allowing potential vaccinees to get their COVID-19 jabs. According to Lo, his bureau raised the maximum allowed systolic pressure from 140 to 160, and the maximum allowed diastolic pressure from 90 to 100. The relaxed requirement aims to enable more people to get their jabs, he said.

Lo said that, generally speaking, initially after a COVID-19 vaccination programme has been launched, a stricter blood pressure requirement is adopted with the aim of reducing the risk of the occurrence of post-vaccination adverse events. According to Lo, the blood pressure requirement can be relaxed some time after the vaccination drive’s launch if no major problems have occurred.

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U speaks to reporters on the City University of Macau’s (CityU) campus in Taipa on Saturday. Photo: GCS

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