(Xinhua/Wu Xiaochu)

Quarantine policy easing for HK arrivals only after similar move by mainland authorities

Only after mainland China authorities eases quarantine requirements for those arriving from Hong Kong, would Macau SAR authorities consider doing the same, health authorities noted today (Monday).

“We never closed the border with Hong Kong. Currently, Macau residents are exempt from quarantine upon arriving in Hong Kong but those coming from Hong Kong only need to complete seven days plus three of health self-management,” Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre Coordinator Dr. Leong Iek Hou said in today’s pandemic update press conference.

“We have maintained close communication with Hong Kong authorities concerning the number of cases there […] for quarantine exemption between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau the pandemic situation has to be similar”

In Hong Kong COVID cases are rising to 8 per cent of their peak level, with the recent case toll climbing to some 4,500 per day and still rising.

“If the mainland and Hong Kong can achieve a level where quarantine exemptions are alleviated, then Macau could follow suit,” Dr. Leong added.

Still, Hong Kong authorities today announced they will reduce the mandatory hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals to three days from a week, starting from August 12.

During their week of quarantine and surveillance, travellers will also have to test regularly for COVID-19 and those who are infected must stay in isolation.

Those who test negative can use public transit and enter malls and markets, but they can’t enter bars and amusement parks or visit elderly homes, schools and certain medical facilities.

Since August 6 Macau eased quarantine requirements for inbound travellers from locations outside of mainland China, with travellers arriving from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or other international locations requesting to quarantine for a shorter seven-day period instead of 10 days if they test negative for COVID-19 on arrival.

Individuals must take five nucleic acid tests during quarantine and undergo self-health management for three more days.

No indications have been provided today by authorities when this period could be reduced with Dr. Leong queried on what efforts were being undertaken to reduce the waiting period for arrivals to be transferred to their respective quarantine hotels.

Upon arrival, travellers from arriving flights must carry out a nucleic acid test and await for the result before being transferred, either to hospital facility observation if positive, or to their respective quarantine hotel if negative.

In some instances arriving passengers have had to await for almost 12 hours at a specially designated area in the Taipa Ferry terminal for their test results to be known, with the health official questioned if the long waiting period could not also pose infection risks for other passengers.

Some 11 positive cases were detected after a flight carrying some 100 people arrived from Singapore last Saturday.

In her response, Dr. Leong noted that authorities “gave great importance” to reducing the waiting period for arrivals with “negotiations ongoing with different services” on how to speed up procedures.

The official however dismissed the possibility of those passengers being allowed to await for the test results in the quarantine hotel, due to perceived transmission risks.