Team of local scientists say Macau’s ‘COVID-19 prevention and control results are remarkable’
A group of 10 scientists from Macau, mainly from the health field but interdisciplinary in nature, published a research article in which they defend that “Generally speaking, the measures and management methods of COVID-19 in the Macau region have almost reached perfection, the only drawback being that the economy has not yet recovered to its pre-pandemic level, because the economic relations between Macau and other countries are almost at the point dead.
In 12 pages, the team, whose first author is Yan-Jie Zhao (Unit of Psychiatry, Department of Public Health and Medical Administration, & Institute of Translational Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Macau ), maintains that “The Macao SAR government has applied innovative and advanced technologies. At the same time, it has actively coordinated and developed partnerships with non-governmental organizations. The results of the prevention and control of COVID-19 are remarkable. The efforts have effectively protected the life, health and safety of people.”
One of the aspects most emphasized by the authors is that “the measures used are sustainable and can serve as a significantly important reference for other countries/regions, which are in line with the objective of ‘global cooperation for development ‘ UN Millennium Development Goals.’
“Compared to most parts of the world, the COVID-19 strategy in Macau is more effective. As of August 11, 2022, there were only 791 confirmed cases, including 6 deaths. Macau is the most densely populated international tourist city in the world with a population density of 20,700 people per square kilometer and annual visitors approaching 40 million. Thus, they state, “experiences in Macau could be useful to other densely populated countries/territories in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In this context, the 10 authors (9 of which are linked to the University of Macao), recall that “Macao has also provided technical assistance to other countries and regions in a more direct way. With the support of the National Health Commission, five members of the International Medical Emergency Team from China (Macao) traveled to Algeria and Sudan to provide emergency assistance and share their knowledge and experience in the fight against the pandemic.
Not only “their medical assistance has been reported by various national and international media platforms”, but “the reports have also enabled other countries and regions at home and abroad to gain knowledge on the management of the pandemic. in Macau in terms of innovations, experiences and lessons, and settling.”
Port quarantine and exit/entry systems
One of the most relevant aspects considered by the authors are the five port and exit/entry quarantine systems (entry health declaration system, medical observation recording system and management system backend, Zhuhai entry application system with medical quarantine exemption). Observation, Customs Clearance Reservation System for Private Cars with Guangdong and Macau License Plates and COVID-19 Entry Restriction Exemption Application System for Foreign Nationals) implemented by the government.
“The systems mentioned above have greatly simplified exit/entry procedures, facilitating efficient management and screening of incoming and outgoing travelers through new technologies. They can serve as a reference for other countries and regions and provide valuable practical experience,” reads COVID-19 prevention and control strategies: learning from the Macau model(2022).
“Compared to most parts of the world, the COVID-19 strategy in Macau is more effective”
“The Gongbei Port border checkpoint between mainland China and Macau is one of the busiest land border checkpoints in the world (more than 134 million travelers crossed the border in 2018), and the policies of border management implemented by the Macao SAR Government during the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the safe and efficient resumption of passenger traffic,” they wrote.
“The policies can serve as a useful reference for border management at similar ports, for example, the Woodlands checkpoint between Singapore and Malaysia (which receives similar passenger numbers as the Gongbei port checkpoint in Macau) [7, 51], and also that between Gibraltar and Spain. Similarly, the guidelines developed in Macau to facilitate the safe resumption of gambling activities in casinos can also be applied to other cities with gambling facilities; added authors.
Relations with Mainland China
“Due to differences in personal data protection laws and regulations in Macau and mainland China, the development and application of the two regions’ health codes were different,” the authors argue.
However, they explain, “in view of the long-standing exchanges, cooperation and movement of people between the two regions and the need to ensure the smooth flow of exchanges, cooperation, trade and tourism activities of the two regions, the Macau SAR has grown. and independently builds its first health code system based on user health statements, travel/residence history, contact history, and various relevant Bureau of Health master databases from Macau.
“The system not only meets regulatory requirements for personal data protection in Macau, but also seamlessly connects to mainland health codes, laying an important foundation for exchanges and cooperation between the two regions,” and the authors, as before, state that “other regions that have close exchanges with another region that has different regulatory requirements can take the experience of Macau’s health code as a benchmark for inspirations and workable solutions.”
On the other hand, “anti-pandemic measures in Macao are almost consistent with the ‘zero COVID dynamic policy’ in mainland China, with some appropriate adaptations based on local socio-economic contexts. The close connection between Macau and China mainland is a contributing factor to the low prevalence of COVID-19 and also to the great success in the management of COVID-19 in Macau, which helps Macau to keep the border between Macau and mainland China open, and the a large amount of tourist flow from Mainland China is helpful to support Macao’s economic development.
On the other hand, the theme of vaccination is not one of the most developed by the authors.
“The Macao SAR government has encouraged the public to actively participate in vaccination to build an immune barrier,” they say, identifying three milestones since the Health Bureau launched the COVID-19 vaccination system on 9 February 2021: The first phase of vaccination is open to priority groups. The second phase is extended to all residents of Macau, with appointments starting February 9, 2021 and the third phase is open to non-resident workers, with appointments starting March 9, 2021.
As of August 11, 2022, 1.46 million doses of vaccines have been administered in Macao SAR, with a total vaccination rate of 90%.
(COVID-19 Prevention and Control Strategies: Learning from the Macau Model; Yan-Jie Zhao; Jia-Qi Xu; Wei Bai; He-Li Sun; Bing Shui; Zhi-Xin Yang; Jingbo Huang; Robert D. Smith; Yuan-Jia Hu; and Yu-Tao Xiang; International Journal of Biological Sciences, 2022; doi:10.7150/ijbs.70177)