Macau has reported four new Covid-19 cases and is conducting again a three-day mass testing of the city’s entire population, with the latest process having started at 9pm on Monday (October 4). In addition, the proposed easing of cross-border restrictions between Macau and its neighbouring city of Zhuhai in the mainland’s Guangdong province, has now been “cancelled”.
The new Covid-19 infections involved two non-resident workers from mainland China and two Vietnamese workers, described as people working in the renovation of an apartment. The first of such cases was screened for Covid-19 as part of a “pooling sample” on Sunday night. His result was affirmed after further testing on Monday morning, and since then three more cases have so far been confirmed by the local authorities.
The first of the four new cases was identified as having most recently been in Macau from September 26 onwards, according to the health authorities’ Monday briefing. He had stayed at three hotels on Macau peninsula: the Sands Macao, a casino hotel run by Sands China Ltd, on September 26 and September 27; the Grand Emperor Hotel, which runs gaming under the licence of SJM Holdings Ltd, on September 28 and September 29; and at the Victoria Hotel, a non-gaming property, on September 30. He then went back to the Grand Emperor Hotel on October 1, and was there until Monday morning.
During his most recent stint in Macau, he had also visited the Oceanus casino, a property under SJM’s gaming licence, near the Outer Harbour, according to health official Leong Iek Hou, at the Monday briefing.
As of Monday afternoon, the local authorities had put a lockdown on the Grand Emperor Hotel and the Victoria Hotel, to prevent anyone present, from leaving.
Lockdowns, pending decisions
A number of countermeasures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Macau was announced after confirmation of the new cases. The areas where the people involved in the four new cases have been living, have been temporarily sealed off to outsiders by the local authorities.
As of Monday’s press conference, the authorities were still considering whether it would be necessary to place a cordon around either Sands Macao or Casino Oceanus. The latter does not have a hotel.
“As his nucleic acid test result on September 30 had been negative, so for now our priority… is that we are looking at the places he has stayed from September 30 onwards,” Ms Leong explained, referring to the testing of the first newly-confirmed case, when asked why the authorities have not imposed any lockdown order on Sands Macao, or placed a cordon on Oceanus.
The Macau authorities were yet to confirm the source of infection in the new cases, according to the city’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre in a Monday afternoon press briefing. The fresh round of mass testing would be crucial for the local authorities to identify if there were any “hidden” Covid-19 transmission links within the community, Health Bureau director, Alvis Lo Iek Long, remarked at the briefing.
Macau has had two previous mass-testing exercises: one in early August (pictured); and the other in late September.
“We hope that the [mass] test can actually be finished within 48 hours,” Mr Lo remarked of the health authorities’ goal to finish the mass test sooner than the three-day deadline. The test result would be a basis for the government to decide if certain business venues have to be closed, Mr Lo noted.
The health bureau boss has also called for the public to stay home and refrain from having gatherings, due to possible Covid-19 risk in the community.
His colleague Ms Leong added: “We are assessing the history of his activities here before deciding whether we should impose some controls on more places…we are also trying to understand when and how long he had stayed at Casino Oceanus, as well as his exposure to [Covid-19] risk. We do not rule out having this place to be placed in lockdown.”
Under an arrangement originally scheduled to start at noon on Monday, authorities in Zhuhai were to have ended a 14-day compulsory quarantine for most travellers inbound from Macau. But that easing arrangement has been cancelled and the 14-day quarantine mandate remains in place until further notice, said the authorities in Macau and Zhuhai, in a joint announcement on Monday morning.
Last week, Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, said Macau had one of the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates in the whole of China, and urged local people to get jabs, as part of their civic duty, and as a route to easing of travel restrictions with the mainland.
(Updated at 8.22am, Oct 5)
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