Macau confirms its first Omicron case, COVID-19 tally rises to 78

2021-12-28 03:53     Comment:0

Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre announced yesterday the city’s first Omicron case, which raised its COVID-19 tally to 78.

The centre identified the patient as a student who received his first and second BioNTech mRNA jab in Macau in June and July respectively, before he went to study in New York in August. His condition has been classified as an imported case.

According to a statement by the centre, the male patient, a 23-year-old local resident, tested negative for COVID-19 in a nucleic acid test (NAT) in New York on Wednesday, before he got on a flight to Singapore on Thursday, from where he caught a transfer flight to Macau on Saturday.

The young man tested positive for the novel coronavirus upon arrival at the local airport on Saturday where he was initially classified as an asymptomatic case. Having come down with symptoms of cough and expectoration yesterday, the statement said, he was diagnosed with pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus, because of which he has been classified as Macau’s 78th COVID-19 case.

According to yesterday’s statement, viral genome sequencing carried out by the Health Bureau’s (SSM) Public Health Laboratory confirmed the man’s infection with the Omicron variant, the first case of its kind detected in Macau.

The statement noted that the Omicron variant is even more contagious than Delta, urging Macau residents who are currently staying in a foreign country to avoid unnecessary travel.

Macau’s total of 78 confirmed COVID-19 cases comprise 61 imported case and 17 cases “connected to imported ones”. No COVID-19 fatalities have been reported in Macau.

Asymptomatic vs confirmed cases

The Macau Health Bureau started early this month to separately classify and announce asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Before the new classification scheme that started early this month, the Health Bureau had classified all those who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus in a nucleic acid test (NAT) as confirmed COVID-19 patients since the pandemic which started early last year – regardless of whether they had come down with COVID-19 symptoms, unlike the mainland health authorities which have always separately classified asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and confirmed COVID-19 cases.

In the mainland, after a patient who was initially classified as an asymptomatic COVID-19 case starts to develop symptoms, he or she will then be classified as a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Yesterday’s statement by the centre said that as the patient who was initially classified as an asymptomatic case started to develop COVID-19 symptoms yesterday, his case has now become a confirmed COVID-19 case.

According to a Health Bureau announcement early this month, asymptomatic cases refer to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in a nucleic acid test (NAT) but develop no symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, reduced sense of smell or taste, and diarrhoea, and whose computed tomography (CT) scan shows no pneumonia.

According to the bureau, confirmed cases refer to those with a positive COVID-19 NAT result who develop symptoms and whose CT scan shows pneumonia, or unjabbed people who have tested positive for both immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies and immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies (with symptoms and a CT scan showing pneumonia).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier this month that the Omicron variant appeared to spread faster than the Delta variant, making vaccines less effective but causing less severe symptoms, while stressing that the data remains patchy.

The Macau Health Bureau also underlined earlier this month that COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in preventing a serious condition or dying from the novel coronavirus disease in case a person is infected with the Omicron variant. The latest findings of research studies worldwide, according to the bureau, have indicated that the administration of a third COVID-19 vaccine dose as a booster jab is able to significantly and quickly increase a person’s antibody levels, because of which the third dose can significantly raise the person’s immunity to prevent Omicron infection.

COVID-19 jab rate reaches 72.06 pct

Meanwhile, Macau’s COVID-19 vaccination rate reached 72.06 percent yesterday – i.e., around 72 percent of the population had received at least one jab, according to the latest official statistics.

According to the website of the Health Bureau’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, as of 4 p.m. yesterday, 967,344 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Macau – 492,243 people had been inoculated against the novel coronavirus (receiving at least one jab), comprising 32,660 who had only received their first jab, 430,597 who had received their second jab, and 28,986 who had received their third jab.

A small number of people in Macau have been vaccinated against COVID-19 outside Macau. In general, their COVID-19 vaccination records are officially recognised in Macau.

According to the website, the 28,986 who had received their third jab as of 4 p.m. yesterday included 3,059 who chose to “mix and match” their booster shots – i.e., those receiving a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose opting for a vaccine with a technological approach different from their first two jabs.

When Health Bureau officials announced Macau’s COVID-19 booster jab programme early last month, they said that while those receiving a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose can choose to “mix and match” their booster shots, the bureau was recommending that potential vaccinees should receive their booster jabs with the same technology as their first two shots. But when replying to media questions at that time, the officials recommended those who have been fully inoculated with the Sinopharm inactivated vaccine receive a BioNTech mRNA jab as their booster shot, due to the latest findings of research studies worldwide which indicated that the Sinopharm vaccine was less effective in preventing COVID-19 infection and transmissions than the BioNTech vaccine. The officials also said they believed that those who have been fully inoculated with the BioNTech vaccine would not choose to receive a Sinopharm jab as their booster shot.

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