Govt to require nearly all unjabbed staff to be tested for COVID-19 regularly

2021-09-14 03:15     Comment:0

Tony Wong

        Addressing yesterday’s press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus situation, Tai Wa Hou, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, announced that all those in contact with service users during their work, or all those who share a “confined” workplace with others, will have to be tested for COVID-19 once every week, or even more frequently, if they have not been inoculated against the novel coronavirus.

Tai added that the new measure will basically cover almost all of the working population in the city, regardless of whether working in the public or the private sectors, as “most indoor workplaces” are regarded as “confined” workplaces.

Those subject to the new measure will have to pay for the regular tests themselves – if not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Tai said that the Health Bureau (SSM) published new guidelines yesterday on COVID-19 vaccinations and nucleic acid testing (NAT) for “all staff members” in the city, considering that the COVID-19 pandemic globally has been becoming increasingly serious and that inoculation against the novel coronavirus can effectively reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and – in case of still being infected despite having been inoculated – the risk of transmitting the disease to others.

According to Tai, the new guidelines state that “all staff members” have the responsibility to be inoculated against the novel coronavirus so as to prevent COVID-19 transmissions in the workplace.

If infected with COVID-19, the new guidelines state, those in contact with service users during their work or those who share a “confined” workplace with others can easily transmit the novel coronavirus to others.

Consequently, the new guidelines state, all staff members in either of the two situations who have not been inoculated against the novel coronavirus should undergo a COVID-19 nucleic acid test every seven days, or even more frequently.

According to Tai, all the respective public and private entities, depending on their real situations, will have to take their own measures so as to implement the new guidelines in due course, adding that they can consult the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre about the new requirement when necessary.

Replying to media questions, Tai said that the required frequency of the nucleic acid tests for those who have not been inoculated against COVID-19 will depend on their respective occupations. Tai said that the respective public or private entities will have to draw up their own specific rules that enable them to implement the new measure that is required by the “principled” guidelines published by the Health Bureau yesterday.

For occupations and workplaces whose operation is overseen by a particular public entity – for instance the restaurant sector that is overseen by the Municipal Affairs Bureau (IAM), it is the respective public entity which will have to draft specific rules so as to get the new measure off the ground, according to Tai.

Other companies or businesses whose operations are not specifically overseen by any particular public entity will have to draft the rules themselves in order to start the new measure, Tai said.

According to Tai, the public or private entities concerned will have to come up with their own timetable as to when the new measure will be implemented for staff members in the respective occupations or working in the respective workplaces.

No specific deadline

According to Tai, the Health Bureau has not set a specific deadline as to when the public or private entities will have to complete drafting their own rules to implement the new measure. Tai merely said that there will be a transition period for the respective entities to prepare for the implementation of the new measure, adding that they can contact and discuss with the Health Bureau to decide their own timetable for the measure.

Tai reaffirmed that the new measure aims to ensure workplace safety, as those who have not been inoculated against the novel coronavirus will carry a higher risk of COVID-19 infection or transmissions.

“All staff members have the responsibility to ensure that their workplaces are safe and their service users will not be infected,” Tai said.

Tai warned that all those who cause COVID-19 transmissions due to their failure to comply with the new guidelines might violate the Law on the Prevention, Control and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, regardless of public entities regulating the respective occupations, companies or staff members.

Tai said that the number of staff members to be covered by the new measure will depend on the upcoming evaluations to be carried out by the respective public entities regulating different occupations and workplaces.

Tai said that the government will not pay for the required COVID-19 tests under the new measure. “Of course, some private institutions would possibly come up with certain solutions to arrange for their staff members undergo the nucleic acid tests,” Tai said.

Basically only freelancers not to be covered

When asked whether the two criteria laid out in the guidelines published yesterday mean that even administrative staff members working in an office will also be subject to the new measure, Tai confirmed that according to the two criteria, almost the entire working population in the city will be covered by the measure, except for very few groups of people such as freelancers.

“Most of indoor workplaces are really confined workplaces. All those working here together with their colleagues could spread the virus to others if they have not been inoculated against COVID-19, despite not being in contact with any service users. Consequently, they also have the responsibility to be inoculated,” Tai said.

48.7 pct vaccination rate

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, 621,410 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered to 332,204 people in Macau, comprising 41,009 who had received their first jab and 291,195 who had received their second jab.

Macau’s COVID-19 vaccination rate stood at 48.7 percent as of 4 p.m. yesterday – i.e., nearly 49 percent of the population had received at least one jab. According to the latest demographic statistics, Macau’s population stood at 682,500 at the end of June.

A total of 14 adverse events were reported in the past 24 hours (until 4 p.m. yesterday). The total number of adverse events since the start of the vaccination drive stood at 2,661, or 0.43 percent of the total number of jabs, including eight serious cases.

Macau has not recorded a new local COVID-19 case for 41 consecutive days since a Delta variant four-member family cluster was confirmed early last month.

All COVID-19 patients discharged

Including the four-member Delta variant family cluster, Macau has recorded 63 COVID-19 cases since January 22 last year.

Before the four latest cases, Macau’s total of 59 COVID-19 cases comprised 57 imported cases and two cases connected to imported ones.

The Health Bureau has classified the case of the Delta variant family’s schoolgirl as an imported case, while her three family members’ cases have been classified as “connected to imported cases”.

Consequently, the 63 cases comprise 58 imported cases and five cases connected to imported ones.

The last member of the Delta family cluster, the father, was discharged on Saturday, according to Tai.

Tai Wa Hou, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, addresses yesterday’s press conference about the city’s COVID-19 situation. Photo: GCS

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