Last Friday, the Macau government launched a new immigration prevention policy, which “relaxed” the SAR’s mandatory isolation measures for non-mainland arrivals from “7+3” days to “5+3”.
Yet a closer look at the new measures suggests the policy actually tightens rather than eases isolation requirements due to stricter controls around the three days of home isolation. In effect, critics say, the new measure is more akin to “8+0” rather than “5+3”.
Under the former policy, all arrivals from Hong Kong, Taiwan or foreign countries were required to undergo seven days of hotel quarantine followed by three days of self-health management with a yellow health code. The yellow health code under Macau’s COVID-19 health measures allows individuals to leave their home for a variety of reasons including to exercise or even visit the office, although entry into restaurants and shops is forbidden.
However, under the new “5+3” measure which began from 12 November, all visitors entering from Hong Kong, Taiwan and foreign countries are subject five days of hotel quarantine plus three days of self-health management with a red health code. The red health code prevents individuals from leaving their home for any reason other than to undergo a NAT test.
Health Bureau Director Alvis Lo made this clear during a press conference last Friday, stating, “Except for nucleic acid testing stations, people with red codes are absolutely not allowed to go out … to shopping malls, restaurants and other places.”
It has also been revealed that, should the home environment of people under a red code make it impossible for them to isolate independently, the government will arrange “red-coded hotels” for them to stay. In other words, these three days of home isolation are actually “three days of isolation in a different place [than the quarantine hotel]”.
In Macau, the red health code is the highest level of epidemic prevention. People with a red health code are usually placed in a hotel for isolation, or the entrance to their building is blocked, forcing them to isolate where they are.
It is because of this that some commentators in Macau are describing “5+3” as more stringent than “7+3” because it requires eight days of absolute isolation rather than the previous seven.
It seems “8+0” is the new norm.