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Health Bureau designing contact tracing app like HK’s LeaveHomeSafe

2021-06-10 03:44     Comment:0

Addressing yesterday’s press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus situation, the Health Bureau’s (SSM) Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou said that her bureau’s technical team is still designing a contact tracing mobile app, which is similar to Hong Kong’s LeaveHomeSafe, adding that for the time being her bureau does not have a timetable about the possible launch of the app.

But Leong was quick to add that her bureau would possibly roll out the contact tracing app “on emergency grounds” in case Macau was hit by a local COVID-19 transmission.

Health Bureau officials first mentioned last week – when attending a current affairs phone-in programme hosted by Ou Mun Tin Toi, the Chinese-language radio channel of public broadcaster TDM – that in case Macau was hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, the bureau would roll out a mobile app – similar to the Hong Kong government’s LeaveHomeSafe app – that would enable local residents to record their whereabouts on their smartphones.

According to the officials, the Macau version of LeaveHomeSafe would enable the app users to compare their whereabouts with the places that have been visited by those who are later diagnosed with having contracted COVID-19. The officials underlined that the records would only be stored on the smartphones and would not be uploaded onto the bureau’s database.

During Tuesday’s COVID-19 press conference, Leong underlined that her bureau was still preparing the possible launch of the Macau version of LeaveHomeSafe. Leong said on Tuesday that the app would enable her bureau to identify and trace those who have been in contact with those who are later confirmed as having contracted COVID-19. However, she reaffirmed that the whereabouts data recorded by the smartphone users would not be uploaded onto the government’s database.

Addressing yesterday’s press conference, Leong reaffirmed that her bureau’s contact tracing app would enable users to record where they have visited and compare their whereabouts with the places that have been visited by those who are later diagnosed with COVID-19. If necessary, Leong said, the app would enable her bureau to identify and trace those who have possibly been infected with COVID-19.

Leong underlined that her bureau has still not named its contact tracing app, adding that health officials are still discussing the app’s design with the bureau’s IT technical team. According to Leong, the discussions include issues such as how to enable the app users to integrate their whereabouts records with the generation of their Macau Health Code on their smartphones, and how to enable the owners or managers of the city’s premises to generate their own QR code for the app users to scan.

52nd case confirmed

Meanwhile, the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre announced in a statement last night that Macau confirmed its 52nd COVID-19 case yesterday, a 21-year-old local man studying in Taiwan who returned to Macau on Sunday last week. According to the statement, the man, who is studying in the Chinese Culture University, tested negative for COVID-19 in a nucleic acid test (NAT) in Taiwan on May 28, before catching a Starlux Airlines flight to Macau on May 30 with a friend.

Upon arrival in Macau, the statement said, the man tested negative for COVID-19 in a nucleic acid test, and was taken to one of the government’s “quarantine hotels” for 21 days of medical observation. However, the statement said, the man tested positive for COVID-19 in a follow-up nucleic acid test yesterday. In addition, he tested positive for IgM antibodies and negative for IgG antibodies in a serology test yesterday. Consequently, the statement said, the man has been confirmed as a COVID-19 case.

The statement also said that the 21-year-old man’s flatmate in Taiwan has also been diagnosed with COVID-19 on the island.

The statement said that the 21-year-old man has not come down with typical COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. He has meanwhile been taken to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre for a medical examination and treatment. The statement did not mention the man’s friend who was on the flight with him.

Macau faces high COVID-19 risk due to Guangzhou’s transmissions

Reporters asked during yesterday’s press conference whether it was necessary for the Macau government to further toughen its COVID-19 prevention measures, such as the stricter Macau Health Code requirements which took effect on Tuesday, as Macau has not confirmed a new local COVID-19 case for 437 days. Leong said that right now was the right time to roll out the tighter COVID-19 prevention measures as Macau is facing a COVID-19 risk that is higher than before.

Leong noted that Macau is now facing a relatively serious COVID-19 threat due to Guangzhou’s ongoing novel coronavirus transmissions. Leong pointed out that compared with the situation overseas Guangzhou’s COVID-19 epidemic is not serious, Macau is nevertheless facing a relatively high COVID-19 risk as a large number of people have been travelling between the two cities, pointing out that some residents currently in Macau have previously visited Guangzhou.

Consequently, Leong said, right now is the right time to tighten the Macau Health Code requirements – all those with a yellow or red Macau Health Code are now strictly barred from entering a wide range of premises, with the aim of preventing them from visiting premises which normally have a large flow of people.

Leong underlined that once Guangzhou’s COVID-19 epidemic has eased, Macau’s COVID-19 prevention measures can be relaxed to the previous level – i.e. before the current wave of COVID-19 transmissions in the provincial capital. She urged residents to show understanding for the Macau government’s tougher COVID-19 measures during the ongoing critical time to protect Macau from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Tai Wa Hou, the coordinator of the Health Bureau’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, said during yesterday’s press conference that for the time being there was no need to roll out special measures to help employers arrange for their non-resident workers (NRWs) who cross the Macau-Zhuhai border to temporarily live in Macau – as happened at the beginning of last year.

Tai noted that the Macau government has stepped up its COVID-19 prevention measures primarily in response to the ongoing novel coronavirus transmissions in Guangzhou and Foshan, pointing out that all cross-border NRWs live in Zhuhai and Zhongshan – neither of which are affected by COVID-19 transmissions. Tai noted that Zhuhai and Zhongshan have launched citywide NAT drives – which so far have not detected any COVID-19 cases, because of which the two cities are still a low COVID-19 risk to Macau.

Border exits & entries drop 30 pct

Meanwhile, Public Security Police officer Lei Tak Fai announced during yesterday’s press conference that the number of border entries and exits fell by 30.3 percent to 253,400 on Tuesday, when the tightened measures took effect, compared to the previous day.


Health Bureau (SSM) Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou (left) speaks during yesterday’s press conference about the city’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, as Tai Wai Hou, the coordinator of the bureau’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, looks on. Photo: Tony Wong


This file photo taken late last year shows a person scanning a QR code with Hong Kong’s LeaveHomeSafe app at a wet market in Mong Kok. Photo: RTHK

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