Health chief warns Macau still faces ‘serious’ NCP threat, admits possible ‘hidden’ cases

2020-02-11 03:05     Comment:0

Addressing yesterday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) situation, Health Bureau (SSM) Director Lei Chin Ion said that no new NCP cases having been confirmed in Macau for six consecutive days shows that the local government’s measures against the virus have started to deliver results.

However, he was quick to add that his did not mean that the epidemic in Macau has eased. He stressed that the city is still facing a serious threat from the virus.

The health chief reaffirmed that there may be “hidden” cases in some neighbourhoods, urging residents to persevere in keeping up all the necessary preventive measures with the aim of winning the battle against the new virus.

Lei made the remarks yesterday evening at the bureau adjacent to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre.

Macau has so far recorded 10 confirmed novel coronavirus cases, including the first patient – a 52-year-old woman from Wuhan – who was discharged from hospital on Thursday, comprising seven tourists from Wuhan and three Macau residents. During the daily press conference on Sunday, Chang Tam Fei, coordinator of the public hospital’s emergency department, said he expected some of Macau’s nine NCP patients to be possibly discharged in several days’ time.

Macau has not confirmed a new NCP case since last Tuesday.

Lei noted that the NCP outbreak on the mainland started over one month ago and in response the local government has implemented a string of “timely and tough” measures against the virus threat, adding that no new NCP cases have been confirmed in Macau for six consecutive days. Lei said this showed that the government’s measures have begun to deliver results, adding that the government is grateful to residents for their understanding and cooperation in its ongoing battle against the virus.

Lei said this, nevertheless, did not mean that the epidemic in Macau has eased. He underlined for the time being the local situation concerning the virus threat was still serious, consequently residents could still not resume their normal lifestyle.

Referring to the recent case in Hong Kong in which nine of 19 members who attended a family hotpot meal have been diagnosed with NCP, Lei said the case showed that gatherings pose a “high risk” of infection. Hong Kong media reported last night that one more person who attended the hotpot meal has been diagnosed with the disease. Hong Kong’s number of confirmed NCP cases stood at 42 last night. 
During yesterday’s press conference, SSM Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou said that two people who have been diagnosed with NCP in South Korea and one in Malaysia were confirmed to have previously been in Macau.

29 diagnosed elsewhere after visiting or working in Macau

According to Leong, 29 people who had been in Macau recently have meanwhile been diagnosed with NCP elsewhere. Apart from the two patients in South Korea and one in Malaysia, 22 have been diagnosed with the disease in Zhuhai, three in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan.

The 31-year-old Malaysian patient, who works in Macau, returned to his country on February 1 and was hospitalised there on Friday, according to Leong, who said that after receiving information on the case yesterday morning the Health Bureau immediately requested its counterpart in Malaysia for more information on the patient as soon as possible, namely where he works in Macau. However, Leong said that at the time of the press conference, which started at 5 p.m., the bureau had not yet received a reply from Malaysia. 

The two patients in South Korea comprise a 51-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman, Leong said. Both travelled by Air Macau flight NX826 from Macau to Seoul on January 31. Leong said that at the time of the press conference the bureau was still waiting for the passenger list from the airline.

Lei said yesterday that according to information provided by health authorities outside Macau, at least nine people – none of them Hubei residents – who have been diagnosed with NCP in neighbouring regions and countries were found to have previously visited casinos or used public transport in Macau. Lei said the situation meant that there are possibly hidden cases, or cases which do not carry obvious symptoms, in some neighbourhoods in Macau.

Lei said that if the government had not suspended casino operations, not cancelled Chinese New Year celebratory events and not urged residents to refrain from attending gatherings, Macau would already have recorded more NCP cases in various neighbourhoods, or even a community outbreak.

Lei again urged residents to maintain all the necessary preventive measures, namely staying at home, refraining from leaving home and attending gatherings. Lei urged residents who need to leave home to always wear a mask and wash their hands frequently. “I hope that all Macau residents will persevere [in maintaining the preventive measures] so that we can win the battle [against the virus] more quickly,” Lei said.

Lei also thanked medical staff and Public Security Forces personnel for their selfless dedication, hard work, and substantial contributions to the government’s ongoing battle against the virus.

3rd round of facemask sales to include masks for kids

Lei also revealed that the third round of the government’s facemask purchase scheme at the fixed price of eight patacas for 10 facemasks for local residents and non-resident workers will be launched tomorrow, adding that the government will announce the details today. The third round of the scheme will include facemasks for children for the first time, Lei said. The first and second rounds of the scheme were launched on January 23 and on February 2 respectively.

Replying to media questions, Lei said it was difficult for his bureau to estimate the number of hidden NCP cases in Macau as infectious diseases are unpredictable and involve uncertainty.

Lei said that the local government could not predict when the epidemic in Macau will be over. He said the government would keep evaluating the latest situation in Macau based on the situation on the mainland and elsewhere outside Macau.

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