In an historic and unprecedented move, Macao’s government ordered the entire population to be tested to ensure that four cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 which had affected one family did not spread any further.
During three days in early August around 720,000 people were tested and confirmed negative to the coronavirus.
Bold emergency measures taken by the health authorities – and well received by the population – put paid to fears which arose in the wake of the outbreak.
The number of people tested is higher than the permanent population of the Special Administrative Region because visitors and workers who live in mainland China near Macao, and were in city and not allowed to cross the border unless they tested negative to the virus, were also included.
According to official statistics released in March, Macao’s population stood at 685,500.
Those who failed to get tested have their Macao Health Codes turn yellow, which entails a string of restrictions which come into force when crossing Macao’s border checkpoints, taking public transport, and entering government departments, hospitals, pharmacies, hotels, supermarkets and restaurants.
If the red code is shown it’s the signal to proceed immediately to a hospital.
From now, people need to have the green code otherwise they will not have access to the majority of Macao institutions, entertainment places and food areas among other small businesses.
During the mass Covid-19 tests operation, more than 4,000 civil servants from the health services, police and fire brigade among others, supported by 300 medical professionals sent from Guangdong Province worked in 42 test stations in schools, resorts and associations in Macao and Taipa to perform tests on people who had booked appointments.
Senior citizens, the disabled and residents of old people homes who could not get out to be tested in the stations were visited by a dedicated team of health workers.
The community’s positive response to the tests was praised by the authorities as residents of all ages and nationalities waited in line at the health stations.
The three-day mass test had a slow and packed start on the first day but after that went smoothly and very professionally; some people said they needed to wait only few minutes before they got tested.
Businessman John Ho, who was tested in a hotel station, praised the medical staff for their professionalism and dedication.
“I believe some of the staff are from Guangdong and this means that mainland China will be always ready to help Macao if we are in need,” he said.
Kerry Tai, who works in one of the resorts in Cotai, said: “We need to praise the government for the success of the operation that has shown that we are still very safe in Macao after almost one and half years of isolation from the world.”
To Mary Lee, a civil servant, the popular support for the testing drive showed that the community “will always be ready to follow decisions that help the return to a normal life.”
Chief Executive come out to explain the courageous measures that will be taken to protect everyone.
After the health authorities detected the family with the Delta variant of Covid-19, Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng declared a “state of immediate prevention” to forestall a sudden coronavirus outbreak and “avoid the transmission of Covid-19 in Macao and to safeguard residents’ life and property.”
“We hope to contain the present situation if there are no new cases or any calamity and gradually return to normality,” said Ho Iat Seng.
Ho also revealed that the government decided to launch the mass testing for everyone after taking advice from Zhong Nanshan, China’s renowned virologist, pulmonologist and respiratory disease expert.
According to Ho Iat Seng, he urged Macao “not to hesitate” to launch a citywide testing drive as soon as possible.
The Chief Executive confirmed that the young student from Macao who triggered the recent Covid-19 Delta variant outbreak was infected on a flight between Zhuhai and Xi’an.
“Two recent test-positive individuals, from neighbouring Zhongshan and Zhuhai cities, were in the same queue as the teenager from Macao, so it can be concluded that the source of infection was the flight,” he said.
The student from Hou Kong school, who went to Xi’an for a dance contest with a group of local girls, carried the infection back to Macao and passed it to her parents and brother.
To prevent the transmission of Delta variant, the government closed down entertainment and leisure spaces, including cinemas, disco and gyms but casinos, hotels and restaurants remained open.
The Chief Executive said that he hopes that Macao life can return to normal in 14 days after the mass Covid-19 testing drive.
Macao’s novel coronavirus tally stands at 63. No Covid-19 fatality has been reported in Macao, which confirmed its first case of the disease on 22 January last year.
During the mass tests the locations for vaccination against Covid-19 closed but opened immediately after their conclusion to provide jabs to those who had registered.
According to data released by the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre, 513,239 doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered to 285,858 people in Macao, comprising 56,719 who had received their first jab and 229,139 who had received their second jab.
Almost 43 per cent of the population has received at least one jab.