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Facemask rules may be eased if Macau ‘stably’ passes next COVID-19 infection peak: Ao Ieong

2023-03-27 03:15     BY Tony Wong    Comment:0

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U says that the government’s current facemask-wearing guidelines could be further eased if Macau “stably” passes a new peak of COVID-19 infections that may occur in May or June.

The current version of the local government’s facemask-wearing guidelines took effect at the end of last month.

Ao Ieong made the remarks while speaking to reporters on Saturday after attending a ceremony marking the opening of a new campus of the private Kiang Wu Nursing College at the Cotai hospital complex.

Macau suffered its first peak of widespread COVID-19 infections around the Christmas holiday following 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.

Since Macau logged 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 outdoors nor in public indoor venues in general. However, those entering certain indoor venues are 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.

The Health Bureau (SSM) has reaffirmed that Macau is expected to be affected by the periodic occurrence of relatively small-scale peaks of COVID-19 infections in the foreseeable future, because of the fact that those who have been infected with COVID-19 will normally have their antibody levels gradually decline three to six months afterwards, as well as the fact that new variants of the novel coronavirus may emerge.


Those entering hospitals or care homes ‘willing’ to wear facemask

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Ao Ieong underlined that the government’s current facemask-wearing guidelines are “primarily only affecting” public transport passengers, because “everyone” in Macau is generally “quite willing” to wear a facemask when entering hospitals or care homes.

The policy secretary pointed out that Macau suffered a peak of widespread COVID-19 infections in December. With the level of immunity against COVID-19 in the population expected to wane in the near future, Ao Ieong said, the local government is preparing for the possible occurrence of a new COVID-19 infection peak, in May or June.

Ao Ieong said that the level of the possible infection peak in May or June was expected to be less intense than the level of the first peak of widespread infections that affected the city in December last year.

Ao Ieong underlined that the government will be closely monitoring the possible infection peak in May or June. If Macau “stably” goes through the possible infection peak, the policy secretary said, the government would further ease its facemask-wearing guidelines. However, she did not elaborate on how the guidelines would be eased.

Ao Ieong also said the government believed that it would no longer need to resume the operation of its Macau Health Code system, which ceases operating today, in the long term. Today’s ceased operation of the Macau Health Code system was announced on Thursday last week.


Kiang Wu Nursing College’s new campus at Cotai hospital opens

Meanwhile, she also reaffirmed on Saturday that the public hospital complex in Cotai, officially known as Islands Healthcare Complex, is scheduled to start operating in phases from the end of this year.

The large-scale Cotai hospital project has two phases – six buildings in the first phase and one in the second phase.

The construction of various buildings of the Islands Healthcare Complex has been completed, except for a central laboratory building, the construction of which is now slated to be completed next month, as well as the second phase’s rehabilitation hospital, the construction of which has still not got off the ground.

The completion schedule of the central laboratory building project has been delayed for a few months.

One of the first phase’s six buildings is earmarked for a new campus of Kiang Wu Nursing College. The construction of the nursing college building was completed in October 2019, the first building completed in the Cotai hospital complex.

The current campus of Kiang Wu Nursing College is located next to the private Kiang Wu Hospital on the peninsula.

The government initially arranged for the new campus of Kiang Wu Nursing College at the Cotai hospital complex to come into use in 2020, but its operational start had been postponed by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a string of other reasons. 


Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U talks to reporters on Kiang Wu Nursing College’s new campus at the Cotai hospital complex on Saturday.
– Photo: GCS


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