Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre has warned it will only consider dropping its zero-COVID policy once vaccination rates in the SAR have reached at least 80%.
Mainland China, alongside its two SARs – Macau and Hong Kong – this week became the last jurisdictions in Asia-Pacific to maintain a zero-COVID policy after New Zealand, which has been battling an outbreak of the Delta variant for the past seven weeks, admitted it was time to transition to a new strategy.
But it could be some time before Macau’s borders reopen to the world with vaccination rates still sluggish at less than 50% and authorities stating they would wait until reaching 80% or higher.
“Some countries or regions already have changed to a policy of learning how to co-exist with the virus,” said Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre Coordinator, Dr Leong Iek Hou.
“We have researched this issue. Everyone in the world wants to learn how to live with the virus but we don’t want a high mortality rate in elderly residents. In order to co-exist with the virus, we need to have a high inoculation rate. Many countries and regions that have adopted this policy already have vaccination rates above 80% or 90% or have most of their elderly population vaccinated.”
Macau currently lags well behind its regional neighbours with only around 54% of its population having received one dose and just 45% both doses.
Nevertheless, Dr Leong’s comments represent the first time authorities have outlined any specific target that could see Macau’s borders reopen to the world. They also come with border restrictions currently in place between Macau and Zhuhai after a small outbreak among a group of quarantine hotel security guards resulted in a second, and a third, round of mass COVID testing for all people in the SAR.
The third round of testing blitz concluded Thursday with all 681,570 samples taken returning a negative result. As a result, authorities announced that the operation of public administration services would resume as the risk of spreading the virus was deemed to be low. Civil servants had been asked to take three days off during the mass testing period.
It is not yet known when Zhuhai will drop a mandatory 14-day quarantine measure for anyone arriving from Macau.