10 new testing stations to open today for COVID-19 target group tests

2021-10-12 03:47     BY Tony Wong    Comment:0

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, said that 10 new testing stations set up in casino-hotel resorts will open today for those who are required to participate in the ongoing mandatory “high-frequency” nucleic acid testing (NAT) drive for “high-risk” target groups comprising non-resident workers from Nepal and Vietnam, and local and non-local renovation and laundry workers and security guards.

Macau’s most recent COVID-19 cases include a number of Nepali security guards and Vietnamese renovation workers.

According to Tai, the setting-up of the 10 new testing stations aims to relieve the long queues outside the city’s regular NAT stations resulting from the new testing programme for the five target groups, which the government expects to complete by Sunday. Tai also said that the 10 new testing stations enable the programme’s participants to queue indoors, i.e., more comfortably.

The 10 new testing stations set up in gaming resorts are located at Grand Lisboa, Sands Macao, Venetian, Wynn Macau, Wynn Palace, Broadway, StarWorld, MGM Macau, MGM Cotai, and Studio City.

Tai said that the government was aware that some of those participating in the mandatory “high-frequency” testing programme need to queue outdoors when waiting to have their swabs taken at the city’s regular NAT stations, because of which, he said, the government has decided to set up the 10 new testing stations in casino-hotel resorts, which offer them a more comfortable waiting environment.

But Tai was quick to add that there are only a few hundred places available every day at the 10 new testing stations, which he admitted is only able to “partially” relieve the long queues outside the regular NAT stations.

Tai also noted that up to 35,000 places are available per day at the five regular NAT stations in the city which are participating in the “high-frequency” testing programme.

The five regular NAT stations are located at the Taipa Ferry Terminal in Pac On, the Macau Forum complex in Zape, the private Kiang Wu Hospital, the University Hospital run by the private Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST), and the Workers Stadium next to the Barrier Gate border checkpoint.

In response to the rising testing need resulting from the programme, the opening hours of the Pac On testing station, the Macau Forum testing station and the Workers Stadium testing station were extended to between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. from Sunday, when the testing drive started.

From yesterday, the opening hours of the Macau Forum testing station and the Workers Stadium testing station were further extended to between 10 a.m. and 11:59 p.m.

According to Tai, the extended opening hours of the three testing stations will last until the “high-frequency” testing drive is completed.

The Kiang Wu testing station and the University Hospital testing station are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. as normal during the ongoing programme.

Tai also said that the testing programme for the five target groups covers 22,000 employees.

This file photo released by the Government Information Bureau (GCS) earlier this week shows health workers collecting nasopharyngeal swabs at the Macau Forum complex in Zape for COVID-19 nucleic acid tests (NATs).

Govt opposes discrimination

Tai also reaffirmed that those in the five target groups are not COVID-19 high-risk people, neither are they people who have possibly been infected with the novel coronavirus.

Tai also underlined that the Health Bureau decided to launch the “high-frequency” testing programme for the five target groups based on the findings of its epidemiological investigations carried out due to Macau’s current COVID-19 wave, i.e., a security staff cluster and a renovation worker cluster, according to which the bureau has concluded that the novel coronavirus might have spread among those in the five groups of the workforce.

According to Tai, those who fail to undergo two required tests consecutively will have their Macau Health Code colour turn yellow.

Tai urged residents not to discriminate against those in the five groups covered by the “high-frequency” testing programme, as they have merely been classified by the Health Bureau as “important” groups of people who are potentially subject to a higher COVID-19 risk, as well as those in various occupations such as medical workers, those working in the frozen food sector, customs officers and others working at the city’s border checkpoints since the COVID-19 pandemic. Tai noted that the “important” groups of people in the various occupations have always been subject to regular COVID-19 tests since the pandemic.

The mandatory “high-frequency” NAT drive for the five target groups, which was announced on Saturday, started on Sunday. Members of the five target groups and their respective employers have been notified by SMS about the requirement for the employees to get tested for COVID-19. Those in the five target groups are required to be tested every other day for a total of four times. The Health Bureau has said that it aims to complete the “high-frequency” testing drive for the five groups this coming Sunday. The tests are free of charge.

The Health Bureau has said that Macau’s most recent COVID-19 cases have indicated that those in the five groups have incurred a higher risk of having been infected with COVID-19. The bureau has said that the “high-frequency” testing programme aims to identify “hidden cases” in the community by requiring those in the five groups to be tested for COVID-19 frequently during a relatively short period of time.

The Health Bureau has underlined that the testing drive does not intend to “label” those in the five groups.

The first two patients of the six-member COVID-19 cluster of quarantine hotel security staff were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus disease on September 25, while the first three patients of the six-member novel coronavirus cluster of renovation workers were diagnosed with the disease on Monday last week.

The security staff cluster involving two medical observation quarantine hotels comprise five Nepali security guards and a mainlander working in a security control room, who were confirmed as Macau’s 65th, 66th, 68th, 69th, 70th and 71st COVID-19 cases.

Why laundry workers are also covered by testing drive

Four of the renovation worker cluster were working on a renovation project in a residential flat before they were diagnosed with COVID-19, comprising two mainlanders and two Vietnamese, who were confirmed as Macau’s 72nd, 73rd, 74th and 75th cases. One of the two latest patients of the cluster, the 76th patient, is also a renovation worker from the mainland who normally shares a flat with the 75th patient, while the other, the 77th patient, is a domestic helper from Vietnam who is a friend of the 75th patient.

However, the 74th patient, a Vietnamese man, is officially permitted to work in Macau as a non-resident worker employed by a laundry in Coloane’s Concórdia Industrial Park, but he was also working on the renovation project before he was confirmed as a COVID-19 patient. The police announced last week that they had discovered that the 74th patient had illegally worked for someone other than his officially approved employer in Macau, and had also illegally worked in a job that is not covered by his officially approved job description.

Ruling out mandatory facemask order

Meanwhile, during yesterday’s press conference Health Bureau Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou ruled out the possibility of the government rolling out a mandatory order to require people to wear a facemask when out and about, at least for the time being.

Leong said that whether Macau should roll out such a mandatory facemask order by referencing the practice in neighbouring regions would need civil society’s consensus and further discussions in the community. Leong said that a mandatory facemask order in Macau could be considered if the city was particularly hard hit by COVID-19 at a time when many residents are not wearing facemasks. 

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