Macau undergoes mass Covid test to stem Delta - RTHK
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Macau undergoes mass Covid test to stem Delta

2021-08-04 HKT 11:02
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  • Macau undergoes mass Covid test to stem Delta
Macau on Wednesday launched a mass Covid-19 testing exercise with the aim of checking everyone in the SAR within three days.

Authorities ordered the tests for the city of 680,000 people after a family of four were confirmed to have the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The government has set up 41 testing centres across the territory and they will run 24 hours a day.

Officials have said the risk of an outbreak is "extremely high" and have ordered a "state of immediate prevention", and people must provide a negative Covid test result done within 12 hours if they want to leave the city.

People who fail to comply with the testing order will see their health code turned yellow, meaning they can't enter certain premises such as restaurants or use public transport, while those who tested negative will have their code turned green.

Speaking on an RTHK programme, Macau legislator Lam Iok-fong said the latest cluster outbreak also sparked panic buying, with residents snapping up many food items overnight.

"Macau has had zero Covid cases for more than 400 days, so people were relaxed and haven't stored food at home. [Now] people are nervous," she said.

Infectious disease expert Leung Chi-chiu, meanwhile, warned that the virus might have already spread in the community, since the infected family members had had lots of activities and they had a high viral load.

The expert said a one-off mass testing exercise may not be enough to stem transmission, adding repeated screenings and a larger-scale lockdown may be needed.

Leung also said Hong Kong was right to quickly remove Macau from the "Return2hk" scheme, so that from now on people who return from Macau will need to undergo home quarantine.

He said if the situation worsens, returnees from Macau should be quarantined in hotels instead.

Another expert, epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling from the University of Hong Kong, said that new cases in Macau show how fragile a travel bubble can be.

"The Macau case does illustrate the fragility of a bubble with the mainland. I know that's what we are going for. If we can maintain zero Covid for a period of time, if we can get the vaccine coverage up to a higher level, then we have the opportunity to establish a bubble with the mainland with free travel in both directions," he said.

"But it will be a fragile bubble that just one outbreak on either side can burst," Cowling added.