More residents turn up to vaccination centers but complaints abound over border test requirements

*By Jing Wu

Residents consulted by Macau News Agency expressed that the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Guangdong and the new border restrictions have led them to be vaccinated.

The number of vaccination appointments made by residents has grown 10-fold after a string of locally transmitted cases were reported in the nearby province since May 21.

In May a walk-in vaccination centre at Macao Forum was opened with the capacity for administering 2,000 vaccine doses daily of the Sinopharm vaccines, with MNA inquiring several people present on the location and the nearby nucleic acid test center.

A citizen that resides in Zhuhai – who is not willing to reveal her name – told MNA the reason for being vaccinated is to consider that it may not be possible to cross the border without vaccination in the future.

“Moreover, it is better to get a vaccine because of the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Guangdong Province,” she said.

Health Bureau Director, Alvis Lo, has previously expressed that authorities have not ruled out the possibility for vaccination to be made a necessary condition for customs clearance in response to the pandemic progression.

A citizen surnamed Zhang and an employee of a local hotel with a home in Zhuhai also stated that being vaccinated is out of consideration for the restriction of crossing the border.

“I got vaccinated it is because my social life is in Zhuhai, I am afraid I will not be able to cross the border without getting a vaccine,” another citizen surname Meng stated.

Meanwhile, another resident expressed that “vaccination is for oneself and for society” and a “basic social responsibility”.

Health authorities indicate yesterday that there are currently 20,000 doses of the mRNA BioNTecg vaccine, of which 10,000 doses are reserved for people who have already administered the first dose of the vaccine, but with the other 10,000 doses said to be sufficient for those who scheduled the first dose of the vaccine.

The current mRNA vaccines expire on August 3, and that it was determined that batches should arrive in Macau in small quantities and separately.

As for Sinopharm’s inactivated vaccine stock, there are currently 300,000 doses, of which 70,000 doses are reserved for those who have undergone the first dose of the vaccine. There are still 200,000 doses of vaccine ordered by authorities that have yet to reach Macau.

Eat, sleep, test, repeat

From June 7, people crossing between Guangdong and Macau also must hold a negative nucleic acid test valid for the last 48 hours, as a response to more than 100 locally transmitted cases reported in the neighbouring province since May.

A local clerk who lives in Macau stated that doing a nucleic acid test it is not too troublesome, despite its current MOP80 cost per test locally.

“I have businesses to do in Mainland, therefore I made the nucleic acid test to cross the border. However, the nucleic acid test for the last 48 hours policy cause lots of trouble for cross-border students, children’s noses are very sensitive. It is painful for them to do it once every two days. They have to line up here [Macau Forum]” to do another one after school,” she added.

MNA also questioned a housewife surnamed Zhao walking her 5-year-old daughter.

The local resident stated that her daughter goes to kindergarten in Macau but both reside in Zhuhai, where they used to do the nucleic acid test once a week using only the throat swab method.

However, at the Macau Forum, the medical staff uses the nasal swab nucleic acid test, which Zheng said caused a lot of discomfort to children.

“Because we live in Zhuhai, we have to do the test almost every day. It’s not a question of spending money. It is because I have to pick my daughter after school and come here to take the test. You also have to count for 48 hours for the validation. If it is over an hour then you cannot go back home, you have to wait here until very late, and my daughter will be late for school the next day,” she said.

“The nucleic acid test for the last 48 hours policy is unacceptable”.

Students can currently take free tests every other day at the Macau Forum or at the Pac On the nucleic acid testing post, with 18,000 spaces per day, with authorities to coordinate with five hospitals for students to take tests over the weekend in Zhuhai.

Just yesterday more than 17,000 people were tested in Macau.

According to a local cross-border high school student surnamed Chen, it is a “bit troublesome to do nucleic acid every other day”.

“Nevertheless, the school can reimburse cross-border students for the cost of nucleic acid tests.”

She does the test at Macau Forum from Monday to Friday and takes the test at the hospital in Zhuhai on weekends.

A citizen surname Lin also said that since the new policy came out, she would not go to Gongbei often.

“I make the nucleic acid test today it is because I must go to Zhuhai to do business. I also plan to get vaccinated, but I have to wait for my company to issue a subsidy policy notice before vaccinating.”

According to the data revealed by the Health Bureau, so far, 155,838 people have been vaccinated against the COVID-19, of which more than 75,600 have received the two required vaccines, about 16 per cent of the total population.

Meanwhile, the nearby city of Zhuhai poses an almost 90 per cent vaccination rate.

Guangdong Province registered nine locally transmitted confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with 178 cases currently being treated in hospitals in the province.

*Edited by Nelson Moura