COVID measures “almost reached perfection” – researchers


A team of local scientists argues that Macau’s “COVID-19 prevention and control results are remarkable”

A group of 10 scientists from Macau, mainly from the health field but with an interdisciplinary character, has published a research paper in which they defend that “Generally speaking, the measures and methods for managing COVID-19 in the Macau region have almost reached perfection, with the only shortfall being that the economy has not yet recovered to its level as of before the pandemic outbreak, because the economic connections between Macau and other countries are almost at a standstill.”

Over 12 pages, the team, whose first author is Yan-Jie Zhao (Unit of Psychiatry, Department of Public Health and Medicinal Administration, & Institute of Translational Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Macau), argues that “The Macau SAR government has applied innovative and advanced technologies. Simultaneously, it has actively coordinated and developed partnerships with non-governmental bodies. The COVID-19 prevention and control results are remarkable. The efforts have effectively protected the life, health and safety of the people.”

One of the aspects most insistently addressed by the authors is the fact that “the measures used are sustainable and can serve as a significantly important reference for other countries/regions, which are in line with the ‘Global Development Cooperation’ goal in the UN Millennium Development Goals.”

“Compared to most parts of the world, the COVID-19 strategy in Macau is more successful. As of 11 August 2022, there were only 791 confirmed cases, with 6 death cases . Macau is the most densely populated international tourist city in the world with a population density of 20,700 people per square kilometre, and annual visitors approaching 40 million.” So, they state, “the experiences in Macau could be helpful for other densely populated countries/territories to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In this context, the 10 authors (9 of whom are linked to the University of Macau), recall that  “Macau also provided technical assistance to other countries and regions in a more direct manner. With the support of the National Health Commission, five members of the China International Medical Emergency Team (Macau) headed to Algeria and Sudan to provide emergency assistance and share their knowledge and experience in fighting against the pandemic.”

Not only “their medical assistance was reported by various domestic and international media platforms,” but “the reports also allowed other countries and regions at home and abroad to gain knowledge of Macau’s pandemic management in terms of innovations, experiences, and lessons, and to adjust.”

Port and Exit/Entry Quarantine 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 Registration System and the Back-end Management System, Application System for Entry to Zhuhai with Exemption of Quarantine for Medical Observation, Customs Clearance Reservation System for Private Cars with Both Guangdong and Macau Registration Plates, and Application System for COVID-19 Entry Restriction Exemption for Foreign Nationals) implemented by the Government.

“The systems mentioned above have greatly simplified the exit/entry procedures, facilitating the efficient management and the screening of inbound and outbound travellers by new technologies. They can serve as a reference to other countries and regions and offer valuable practical experience,” we can read COVID-19 prevention and control strategies: learning from the Macau model(2022).

“The COVID-19 prevention and control results are remarkable. The efforts have effectively protected the life, health and safety of the people” –

“Compared to most parts of the world, the COVID-19 strategy in Macau is more successful”

“The border checkpoint at the Gongbei Port between mainland China and Macau is one of the busiest land border checkpoints in the world (more than 134 million travellers crossed the border in 2018), and the border management policies implemented by the Macau SAR government during the COVID-19 pandemic have enabled the safe and effective resumption of passenger traffic,” they wrote.

“The policies may serve as a useful reference for border management in similar ports, for example, the Woodlands Checkpoint between Singapore and Malaysia (which receives a similar number of passengers to that of the checkpoint at the Gongbei Port in Macau) [7, 51], and also the one between Gibraltar and Spain. Similarly, the guidelines developed in Macau to facilitate the safe resumption of gaming activities in casinos can also be applied to other cities with gaming facilities;” authors added.

Relations with mainland China

“Because of the differences in the laws and regulations on personal data protection in Macau and mainland China, the development and application of the Health Codes of the two regions were different,” argue the authors.

However, they explain, “given the long-standing exchanges, cooperation and movement of persons between the two regions and the need to ensure that the exchanges, cooperation, trades and tourism activities of the two regions could carry on smoothly, the Macau SAR developed and built independently its first Health Code System on the basis of the users’ declarations of health status, travel/residence history, contact history and the various relevant backend databases of the Macau Health Bureau.”

“The system not only meets the regulatory requirements for personal data protection in Macau, but also seamlessly connects with the mainland health codes, laying an important foundation for exchanges and cooperation between the two regions,”- and the authors, as before, state that “other regions with close exchanges with another region whose regulatory requirements are different can take the experience of the Macau Health Code as a reference for inspirations and viable solutions.”

On the other side, “the anti-pandemic measures in Macau are almost consistent with the ‘dynamic zero-COVID policy’ in mainland China, with some appropriate adaptions according to the local socioeconomic contexts. The close connection between Macau and mainland China is a contributing factor to the low prevalence of COVID-19 and also the great achievement of COVID-19 management in Macau, which helps Macau to keep the openness of border between Macau and mainland China, and the large amount of tourist flow from mainland China is helpful to sustain the economic development of Macau.”

Vaccination

On the other hand, the theme of vaccination is not one of the most developed by the authors.

“The Macau SAR government has encouraged the public to actively participate in vaccination to build an immune barrier,” they argue, identifying three stages since the Health Bureau launched the COVID-19 Vaccination system on February 9, 2021: The first phase of vaccination is open to priority groups. The second phase is extended to all Macau residents, with appointments starting on 9 February 2021 and the third phase is open to non-resident workers, with appointments starting on March 9, 2021.

As of August 11, 2022, 1.46 million doses of vaccines have been administered in Macau SAR, with a total vaccination rate of 90 per cent.

 (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)