Macau’s fight against COVID-19 has become ‘routine’: doctor

2020-05-15 03:29     Comment:0

Addressing yesterday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, said that the local government will continue its fight against the COVID-19 threat “as a matter of routine”, coinciding with the gradual restoration of normality in the community with the city’s COVID-19 spread risk “under control”.

Lo made the remarks when replying to a question from a reporter who asked how the local government will tackle the hypothetical situation in which the novel coronavirus won’t disappear, a view mentioned by Michael Ryan, an executive director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its Health Emergencies Programme, during a virtual press conference on Wednesday at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

According to international newswire reports, Ryan said during Wednesday’s online briefing that the novel coronavirus could become endemic in the same way as HIV, and populations around the world would have to learn to live with it.

“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away. HIV has not gone away, but we have come to terms with the virus,” Ryan said.

“I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be,” the wire services quoted Ryan as saying.

During yesterday’s press conference at the Health Bureau (SSM), Lo said that people still have a “very limited” knowledge of the novel coronavirus, adding that the development of the COVID-19 pandemic was unpredictable. Lo said that therefore the local government “must prepare for the worst possible scenario in which the novel coronavirus disease, like influenza, will continue to exist for a long time, sometimes more active and sometimes less active, depending on the season”.

Health Bureau (SSM) Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou (right) speaks during yesterday’s press conference about the city’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, as Alvis Lo Iek Long, one of the three clinical directors of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, looks at his tablet computer. Photo: Tony Wong

‘A protracted war’

Lo said that therefore the local government has now turned to a strategy to make its anti-COVID-19 work a “routine” task. “It will be a protracted war,” he warned.

Lo was quick to add that residents do not need to be “pessimistic” about the situation as a COVID-19 vaccine or a specific medicine to treat the disease may be successfully developed in the future, in which case humans will have more options for their COVID-19 prevention and control work. Lo insisted that “we can do many things” before a COVID-19 vaccine or a specific medicine to treat the disease has been successfully developed, for instance maintaining good personal hygiene, which is what, according to Lo, Macau residents have always been adhering to and which has been “very helpful” in the government’s ongoing battle against the highly contagious disease.

Continued vigilance

Lo noted that although the COVID-19 epidemic has “surely” eased in Macau, the epidemic around the globe is still very serious, urging residents to continue to be vigilant against the COVID-19 threat.

Lo pledged that the local government will continue to formulate anti-COVID-19 plans for different possible scenarios concerning the development of the COVID-19 epidemic in Macau and elsewhere, pointing out that it has been rolling out various measures to enable the gradual restoration of activities in civil society, based on the condition that the risk of COVID-19 spreading in Macau has become “controllable”.

Lo underlined that the local government will need more time to monitor the development of the COVID-19 pandemic before deciding to gradually relax its current entry restriction measures as the epidemic in foreign countries is “still very serious”.

Meanwhile, Lo also pointed out that Macau has not confirmed a new COVID-19 case for 36 consecutive days. Just two of Macau’s 45 COVID-19 patients were still undergoing isolation treatment yesterday, Lo said.

Monitoring Jilin situation

Meanwhile, SSM Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou said that the local government was closely monitoring the development of the COVID-19 epidemic in Shulan, a county-level city administered by the city of Jilin in Jilin province. Leong pointed out that the current epidemic in the north-eastern province is primarily in Shulan – where multiple domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases were reported recently, adding that Health Bureau officials at the city’s border checkpoints will now ask arrivals from Jilin province whether they have visited Shulan.

Fewer respiratory symptom patients

Meanwhile, Leong said that currently some 500 people have been seeking treatment at the public hospital’s emergency department per day on average since the COVID-19 epidemic emerged in Macau in late January, whereas normally some 900 people were seeking treatment there on average per day before the epidemic, adding that this was primarily due to a decrease in the number of patients with a fever or respiratory symptoms. She said that this was due to residents’ good personal hygiene habits resulting from the COVID-19 threat.

Meanwhile, Lo urged residents to check the most up-to-date news about the local government’s latest COVID-19 prevention and control measures first before calling its Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre hotline for enquires so that those in need can use the busy hotline. He said that 90 percent of the calls to the hotline recently were about the local government’s nucleic acid testing scheme and the Guangdong government’s new quarantine exemption measures.
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