Photo by EPA/WALLACE WOON

Chief Executive advises residents to stay home during CNY or at least wear health masks outside

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng has stated today that in order to avoid further aggravation of the Wuhan pneumonia virus outbreak local residents should stay home during Chinese New Year, or should at least wear health masks if deciding to go outdoors or to areas with large gatherings of people.

“We don’t know if this is the peak of the disease […] I think it could be only after CNY because now people are moving a lot. If there is contagion it is now, during these travels, but maybe the most critical time could be registered after the Lunar New Year. That’s why we took the hard decision to cancel CNY festivities, to prevent further aggravation of the disease,” the CE said today in a special press conference held due to the outbreak.

The head of the Macau government also revealed today that the territory has ordered 20 million individual protective masks abroad from countries not impacted by the new virus because the product is out of stock in China.

Ho Iat Seng said that this decision was taken in the face of the failure of Chinese factories to respond, citing as an example the lack of masks in neighboring cities in Guangdong province, whose demand has increased exponentially due to the virus that has already caused 17 deaths and more than 500 infected cases.

“There is no problem with the supply of masks”, he stressed, guaranteeing that today the first batch of three million of the order of 20 million arrives.

Yesterday, health authorities had indicated that Macau ID holders would be able to buy a minimum of 10 masks – from the 20 million stock – for a 10 day period, one per day and for a price set by the SS, from 50 community pharmacies with which the Health Bureau (SS) has a partnership.

The CE today revealed masks would be sold at a set price of MOP8 (US$0.9), with any pharmacy found to be gouging prices to be sanctioned.

Non-resident workers in the city with residence permits will also be allowed to buy masks in these pharmacies.

Ho considered that if non-residents, namely Mainland China tourists, were to be allowed to buy masks they could quickly run out.

Several of the measures taken by local authorities were devised after a meeting yesterday with Zhong Nanshan, the head of a team of infectious disease experts from the National Health Commission of China and an academic from the China Institute of Engineering.

Zhong pointed out that in addition to being a city with a higher population density and with many hotels and casinos, Macau will receive a considerable number of tourists during the Lunar New Year, thus suggesting that Macau should strengthen collaboration with the Guangdong Province to avoid becoming a ‘super-spreader; of the disease and jointly fight it.

At the press conference, the Chief Executive took the opportunity to list all the measures taken by the new Government, since the first information on the Wuhan virus began to emerge, and underlined that the territory has also taken care of the reinforcement of support ventilation machines, breathing and medication.

A meeting was also held with local gaming operators to advise them of all necessary precautions to be taken, with gaming workers mandated to wear health masks during this period.

Macau authorities today identified a second person infected with the new type of coronavirus, a 66-year-old man, who, like the first case, a 52-year-old woman, is also from Wuhan.

Currently, in isolation, both cases are considered high-risk patients.