Health chief reaffirms periodic COVID-19 infection peaks in foreseeable future

2023-03-16 03:05     BY Tony Wong    Comment:0

Health Bureau (SSM) Director Alvis Lo Iek Long reaffirmed yesterday that Macau is expected to be affected by the periodic occurrence of peaks of COVID-19 infections in the foreseeable future.

The health chief made the remarks while speaking to reporters after attending a closed-door committee meeting in the Legislative Assembly (AL).

Macau suffered its first peak of widespread COVID-19 infections around the Christmas holiday resulting from the local government’s decision to abandon its long-running dynamic zero-COVID approach on December 8. A one-month period transitioning the city from the zero-COVID approach ended on January 8, when the local government started to tackle COVID-19 as an endemic disease.

After Macau had the highest daily official number of new COVID-19 fatalities of nine on January 5, the new daily number of fatalities had gradually been declining, before the latest fatality was reported on February 2.

Since the end of last month, people in Macau are no longer requested to wear a facemask when they outdoors nor in public indoor venues in general. But those entering certain indoor venues are currently still required to wear a facemask, such as medical institutions, residential care homes for senior citizens, and rehabilitation care homes, except for inpatients and service users living in the care homes.

Since the end of last month, public bus drivers and passengers, as well as Light Rail Transit (LRT) passengers, are still required to wear a facemask.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Lo underlined that while Macau’s COVID-19 situation has eased, this does not mean that COVID-19 is now over.

Lo noted that those who have been infected with COVID-19 will normally have their antibody levels gradually decline three to six months afterwards. In addition, he said, new variants of the novel coronavirus may emerge.

Consequently, Lo said, Macau is expected to be affected by the periodic occurrence of COVID-19 infection peaks in the foreseeable future.

Only 12 pct of population has received 4 jabs

Lo also said that while 57 percent of the population in Macau has received at least three COVID-19 jabs, only a small percentage of have received four shots.

Lo warned that while the levels of COVID-19 infections in periodic peaks in the foreseeable future are expected to be less intense than the level of the first peak of widespread infections that affected the city between December last year and January this year, people in Macau should not let their guard down in COVID-19 prevention, because certain groups of people in the city are still expected to incur a relatively high risk of being affected by COVID-19 infections.

The health chief urged those who have still not received their third or fourth COVID-19 dose to have it as soon as possible with the aim of boosting their protection against the novel coronavirus.

According to the Health Bureau’s COVID-19 website, as of last week 99.4 percent of the population in Macau had received at least one COVID-19 jab, while 93.9 percent had received at least two shots.

As of last week, according to the website, 57 percent of the population had received at least three COVID-19 doses, whereas only 12 percent of the population had received four jabs.

Currently, the Health Bureau advises those aged 18 or over to receive a total of four COVID-19 jabs, comprising the first two jabs that provide basic full immunity and two booster shots.

COVID-19 infection rate of 0.5 pct

Meanwhile, Lo also said that an average of 600 to 700 people had sought treatment at the emergency department of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre every day over recent weeks. Lo said that the hospital has been asking some of those who come down with flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, muscle pain or sore throat, to undergo tests, to confirm whether they have been infected with the novel coronavirus, influenza viruses, or adenoviruses.

According to Lo, the findings of tests of those seeking treatment at the public hospital’s emergency department over recent weeks indicated that for every 200 samples, one had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, representing an infection rate of 0.5 percent. In addition, Lo said, “almost nobody” has reported COVID-19 infections on the Health Bureau’s online platform in recent weeks.

Lo pledged that the Health Bureau will continue to closely monitor real-time data of reported infections of the novel coronavirus as well as other viruses that cause respiratory diseases.

Meanwhile, Lo also said that while residents’ demand for facemasks and COVID-19 rapid antigen test (RAT) kits has been declining, the government will continue with its facemask purchase scheme and RAT kit purchase scheme for the near future.

Lo also underlined that the public health sector has stored a sufficient amount of COVID-19 antiviral medicines in preparation for possibly rising COVID-19 infections in the city. 

Health Bureau (SSM) Director Alvis Lo Iek Long speaks to reporters in the Legislative Assembly (AL) yesterday. – Photo courtesy of TDM

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