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‘Happy zeros’ show successful fight against COVID-19

2020-05-21 03:35     Comment:0

Health Bureau (SSM) Director Lei Chin Ion was a bearer of glad tidings this week when he announced on Tuesday what I may call Macau’s “happy zeros” concerning the local fight against COVID-19.  

Lei noted that Macau has brought the number of novel coronavirus patients down from 45 to zero and also has been able to keep the number of infected healthcare workers at zero. Most importantly, the number of COVID-19 deaths has remained at zero since the first case was confirmed in Macau on January 22, and no local transmission of the highly contagious disease has to date been detected – another “happy zero”.

All this shows that the government’s battle against the virus has been on the right track from the very beginning. One of its most pertinent decisions has been to provide all residents and non-resident workers with facemasks at an affordable price. The decision was taken at a time when many other governments still claimed that there was no need to supply the general public with facemasks. Now we know that they were fatally wrong. I am quite sure that badly hit countries such as the US, UK and quite a few EU member states could have avoided tens of thousands of deaths and the huge economic cost of drastic lockdown measures if they had followed Macau’s example on the facemask front. They chose otherwise – and the bill they will have to pay for the blunder will be gigantic. As always, it will be the “common people” in those countries who will have to bear the brunt of the economic fallout. 

Macau’s determined but measured response to the COVID-19 menace – including the government’s decision to close all casinos for a fortnight – has potentially saved countless lives. Unlike other jurisdictions, people never had to cope with nerve-racking confinement restrictions and rather arbitrary-sounding social distancing measures. Why? The answer is simple: because close to 100 percent of people here have been wearing facemasks when out and about for about four months already. Common sense and social responsibility have prevailed in Macau’s fight against the disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva should study Macau’s timely and level-headed approach to getting COVID-19 under control. 

Another measure that has certainly kept all of us safe here has been the government’s strict border curbs, even though they have inconvenienced many of us. For instance, two of our staff members are still unable to cross the border from the mainland, but even though our team has been severely affected by their prolonged absence we all agree that the measure serves the greater good: saving lives – and that’s what ultimately counts. 

All those “happy zeros” would, of course, have been impossible without our healthcare workers’ admirable endurance, commitment and resilience in battling the disease that certainly has posed a very personal risk to them, those on the frontline in particular. You deserve our wholehearted gratitude for all you’ve done for us. 

Irrespective of all those “happy zeros” resulting from their successful fight against the virus, we must keep a watchful eye on the viral threat and never let our guard down. Our city’s cherished return to normality must tread warily as COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc overseas, in countries that failed to take timely preventive measures out of pure ignorance or sheer negligence in particular. 

The hasty easing of the measures could quickly undo what has been so arduously achieved in the past four months in Macau. The ultimate aim must always be to keep all of us safe during the pandemic whose end is nowhere in sight. Patience is the order of the day. 

As the WHO rightly says: “A time for patience, not patients”

– Harald Brüning 


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