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Macau imposes quarantine on arrivals from all foreign countries

2020-03-17 04:09     Comment:0

Addressing yesterday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U announced that with effect from 00:00 today, all those who have been to a foreign country within the past 14 days prior to their entry into Macau must stay under medical surveillance for 14 days in a place designated by the Health Bureau (SSM), considering that Macau has just confirmed its 11th COVID-19 case and the disease is constantly spreading across the world.

According to Ao Ieong, under the new quarantine measure – which started to be implemented immediately after midnight last night, those who have been to COVID-19-high-risk areas will be transferred to a government-designated hotel – Pousada Marina Infante in Cotai – or the bureau’s quarantine facility in Coloane for the 14-day quarantine – even local residents, while those who have been to “less risky” areas can opt for home quarantine. 

The policy secretary announced the stricter measure in the wake of Macau’s 11th COVID-19 case – an imported case which was confirmed on Sunday night – and the rapid deterioration of the epidemic around the world, particularly in Europe.

The latest COVID-19 patient is a 26-year-old female non-resident worker from South Korea. She left Macau and travelled to Porto with her boyfriend – a local Portuguese national – for a family visit on January 30, before returning to Macau with her boyfriend in the early hours of Saturday. She sought treatment at the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre on Sunday afternoon after coming down with a fever, according to a statement by the local government in the early hours of yesterday.

In response to the escalating epidemic in different areas in the world, the local government started on February 26 to impose a 14-day quarantine on any arrivals –local residents, visitors, non-resident workers or non-local students – who have been to South Korea within the 14 days prior to their entry into Macau. The quarantine measure was extended on February 29 to also cover travellers who have been in Italy or Iran within the 14 days prior to their arrival here. The measure was extended last Tuesday to all arrivals from Japan, France, Germany and Spain.

Under the previous quarantine measure – which was in force until yesterday, non-Macau residents – visitors, non-resident workers and non-local students enrolled in local universities and colleges– had to go into 14-day quarantine at the Pousada Marina Infante hotel at their own expense, while local residents could choose 14-day quarantine either at home or at the hotel, depending on whether their flat could meet certain requirements, such as whether they need to share a bedroom.

Normally, the local government transfers those who have been in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients to the bureau’s quarantine facility in Coloane – Public Health Clinical Centre – for 14-days quarantine.


Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U addresses yesterday’s press conference at the Health Bureau (SSM) about the city’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Photo: GCS

Under the toughened version which was announced by Ao Ieong yesterday and starts today, local residents upon arrival in Macau after returning from a high-risk foreign country can no longer choose to go into home quarantine and will instead be taken to the designated hotel or even to the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane for 14-days quarantine.

Focus on arrivals from foreign countries 

During yesterday’s press conference at the bureau next to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, Ao Ieong said that as Macau has confirmed the 11th COVID-19 case and the novel coronavirus disease is spreading across the world, the local government has now changed its overall epidemic prevention policy from focusing on the prevention of cases imported from the mainland to focusing on the prevention of cases imported from foreign countries. 

Ao Ieong said that consequently the local government has decided that with effect from 00:00 today local residents, visitors, non-resident workers or non-local students enrolled in Macau who have been in any area outside China – i.e. outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan – within the 14 days prior to their entry into Macau have to stay under medical surveillance for 14 days in a place designated by the Health Bureau.

Ao Ieong said that SSM medical staff members at the city’s border checkpoints will carry out risk assessments on all arrivals. If the arrival has been to a COVID-19-high-risk foreign country, he or she will be transferred to the Pousada Marina Infante hotel or even the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane for 14-days quarantine, depending on medical officials’ assessments on the degree of health risk potentially posed by the arrival. A person assessed to pose a particularly high risk will be taken to the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane. 

Ao Ieong said that if a local resident has been to a foreign country with a health risk that is “not so high”, he or she could choose to go into 14-day home quarantine.
Ao Ieong pointed out that those in home quarantine found to have breached the official requirements will be moved to mandatory quarantine at another facility and be held criminally responsible.

Ao Ieong also urged all arrivals to be truthful about their health status and travel history when presenting a self-filled health declaration e-form, warning that those who lie or fail to disclose complete information will be held criminally responsible, facing a prison term of up to six months or a fine.

Details about 11th case 

During yesterday’s press conference, SSM Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou gave detailed information about Macau’s latest COVID-19 patient’s travel history during her holiday in Portugal and after returning to Macau.

Leong said that the 26-year-old patient, an Air Macau flight attendant, worked until January 28 before starting her holiday. She left Macau and travelled to Porto with her fiancé– a local Portuguese national – for a family visit on January 30. During her holiday in Portugal, she stayed at her fiancé’s family home. During her stay in Portugal, she met her fiancé’s friends and relatives.

While Sunday night’s statement referred to the man as the flight attendant’s boyfriend, yesterday’s press conference described him as her fiancé. 

According to Leong, the woman travelled from Porto to Lisbon by train on March 10 and returned to Porto on March 11. The couple caught flight EK198 from Porto to Dubai on Thursday, with the woman sitting in seat 17B of the Emirates plane, after which they took flight EK380 from Dubai to Hong Kong and the woman sat in seat 31J.

According to Leong, the pair returned to Macau at 00:21 on Saturday from Hong Kong via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB), after which they returned to their flat in Macau, Block 5 of the luxury residential estate One Oasis in Coloane, by taxi.

According to Leong, the woman came down with a “slight” cough at midday on Saturday. In the afternoon, the woman travelled to Taipa on a shuttle bus run by Oasis. In Taipa, the woman had meals in two restaurants, bought items from a pharmacy, and accompanied her fiancé when he had a hair cut in a barbers shop. Her fiancé drove back to the flat, after which they had dinner there. 

According to Leong, the couple had breakfast in the flat on Sunday morning, after which a part-time cleaner arrived at the flat. The cleaner – a Filipina – had a chat with the South Korean woman for 10 minutes, at a distance of over one metre. Afterwards, the couple went out.

The flight attendant came down with a fever and felt dizzy on Sunday afternoon so her fiancé drove her to a private clinic in Taipa where her temperature was 37.5 Celsius. The woman then went to the emergency department run by the public hospital in Taipa, where staff collected a sample for a COVID-19 test. Afterwards, her fiancé drove her home to wait for the result of the test, according to Leong.

On Sunday night, the result confirmed that she has been infected with the novel coronavirus so that she was taken from the flat to the public hospital’s isolation ward by ambulance for treatment.

Lei Wai Seng, a clinical director of the public hospital, said that the patient was in good condition yesterday. A CT scan image showed that the patient does not suffer from pneumonia, Lei said.

Leong said that the woman’s fiancé, four passengers sitting near the woman during the flight from Dubai to Hong Kong, a friend of the woman in Macau, and the part-time Filipina cleaner have been classified as having been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient – the Air Macau flight attendant. Three of the four passengers are local students enrolled in Portugal. All of them have been taken to the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane for 14-day quarantine.

Meanwhile, Inês Chan Lou, who heads the Licensing and Inspection Department of the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), announced that the special measure transporting Macau residents arriving at Hong Kong’s airport from Europe – a measure announced by the Macau government on Sunday – will now also cover Macau residents arriving at Hong Kong’s airport from the United States, as the Hong Kong government has announced that it will impose 14-days quarantine on all those arriving there from the United States starting from Thursday.

SSM Director Lei Chin Ion acknowledged that many local residents are disappointed that Macau has confirmed a new COVID-19 case after having had no new cases for 39 consecutive days. Lei said that as the disease has now become a pandemic, it was unavoidable that Macau will have imported cases. 

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