MGTO: Guangdong-HK-Macao entry curbs can only be lifted after COVID-19 vaccine or medicine

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Addressing Wednesday’s press conference about Macao’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public Conde S. Januário Hospital Centre, admitted that border entry curbs among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao can only be completely lifted after a COVID-19 vaccine or specific medicine to treat the disease has been successfully developed.

Lo pointed out that the development of the COVID-19 pandemic is “full of uncertainties”, and many new cases are constantly confirmed in many countries every day. Lo said that based on the current situation, the COVID-19 pandemic can only be brought under control after a COVID-19 vaccine or medicine has been successfully developed.

Lo pointed out that after a vaccine has been developed, it would have to undergo animal testing, after which it would have to go through clinical trials on humans in three phases. Lo said that Zhong Nanshan, the nation’s renowned respiratory disease expert, told Macao health officials during his working visit to the city earlier this week that five COVID-19 vaccines that are under development in the mainland are currently undergoing the second phase of clinical trials.

Lo pointed out that Macao has not confirmed any new local COVID-19 cases for over 90 days, which is “a very long time”, showing that the local government’s fight against COVID-19 has been successful. Lo said that therefore the Macao government has been constantly discussing with its Guangdong, Zhuhai and Hong Kong counterparts the possible “conditional” relaxation of the current restrictions on cross-border movement of people between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in a “limited” way.

Lo said that travel within Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao could only completely return to normal – before the COVID-19 epidemic emerged early this year – after a COVID-19 vaccine or medicine has been developed. “The restoration of completely free movement of people [around the three regions], like before, will only depend on whether a scientific breakthrough, namely a [COVID-19] vaccine or medicine, is achieved, in which case all travellers can cross the borders [among the three regions] without the need to present a nucleic acid test [NAT] certificate,” Lo said, admitting that it would still take “a period of time” before this situation could be realised.

Since 25 March, all those – both Hong Kong and non-Hong Kong residents – arriving in Hong Kong from Macao or Taiwan must go into 14-day mandatory quarantine. The Hong Kong government had already imposed the same quarantine measure for those arriving from the mainland on 8 February.

Also since 25 March, Macao residents as well as the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan residents who have been to Hong Kong or Taiwan within the 14 days prior to their entry into Macao must undergo 14 days of quarantine and medical observation at one of the government’s “quarantine hotels” upon their arrival here.

All travellers arriving in Guangdong from overseas as well as Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have had to undergo 14 days of “concentrated” quarantine there since 27 March.

Lo pointed out that border entry curbs between Macao and Zhuhai have been gradually relaxed since the implementation of the Guangdong government’s quarantine measure, such as quarantine waivers granted by the Zhuhai government to certain groups of Macao-Zhuhai cross-border commuters, and the special measure to allow Macao residents who need to cross the Macao-Zhuhai border for official purposes, business activities or other special reasons to apply for exemption from the 14-day quarantine requirement.