Lunar New Year contingency plans for Macao after Wuhan pneumonia outbreak

A meeting of the Inter-departmental Taskforce on Pneumonia of Unknown Cause.

The Government has contingency plans in place – regarding provision of local medical services and work on epidemic prevention – in light of the large flow of visitors to the city expected over the Lunar New Year holidays.

The Government is strictly complying with guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) in relation to preventive measures locally, following the outbreak of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, Hebei Province. Macao will provide updates to the public – in a timely manner – regarding its strategies for the prevention, or if necessary the control, of the spread of the coronavirus that has been newly-identified in follow-up work as a result of the Wuhan outbreak.

On Wednesday (16 January) Macao’s Inter-departmental Taskforce on Pneumonia of Unknown Cause held a meeting to review the city’s disease-control preparations for the Lunar New Year holidays.

Response measures discussed there included: issuance of guidelines for mainland students and workers that are currently based in Macao; organisation of explanatory and promotional seminars for social service institutions, schools and associations; enhancement of temperature-monitoring screening at maritime terminals and land-based checkpoints; the close monitoring of the local stocks of protective face masks; continuing provision of technical support for casinos for installation of temperature-monitoring facilities; and the strengthening of disease prevention and control measures during large-scale public events.

Additionally on Wednesday, the Government held a press conference to provide information on the latest scientific findings regarding the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak. An SAR Government team had been to Wuhan to learn more about the latest developments there.

The Director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Mr Lam Chong, one of those that went to Wuhan, said experts there had provided detail on the development of the viral outbreak; measures to control the spread of the virus; and appropriate treatment for infected patients.

As of 13 January, there was a total of 41 people recorded in Wuhan as having contracted illness caused by the newly-identified coronavirus. There had been one death, six people were in a critical condition and seven had been released from hospital. The patients mostly had fever and cough in the early stage, with a few suffering from breathing difficulties. The patients most seriously affected were mostly older people or those with pre-existing illness.

Currently, further pathogenic and epidemiological investigations were ongoing. The national public health authorities had conducted environmental assessments at the Wuhan wholesale food market where some of those infected had been working. No samples from animal products sold there had been found to contain the identified coronavirus, said Mr Lam.

The WHO had previously mentioned that there appeared to be only ‘limited’ potential for human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. Mr Lam stated that in other situations where there appeared to have been animal-to-human transmission of a virus – such as H5N1 avian flu – there had also been limited but extremely low potential for human-to-human transmission.

During the period from 5pm on 14 January to 5pm on 15 January, the Health Bureau received notice of a case involving a 4-year-old boy visiting from Wuhan, complaining of fever and respiratory problems. It was confirmed that he had type A influenza related to seasonal factors.

Since 1 January, the Government had been informed by local medical institutions about a total of 13 illness cases, each involving a patient with fever and respiratory problems, and that had been in Wuhan in the previous 14 days. Tests had shown none of the 13 patients had the Wuhan pneumonia virus.

Macao has sufficient reserve stocks regarding medical supplies such as masks, hazmat (hazardous materials) suits, and disinfection agents. There are also adequate facilities for keeping in isolation anyone thought to have been infected by that virus, and for treating them if necessary.

The Health Bureau’s Public Health Laboratory already has diagnostic tests that can detect if a patient has been infected with the pathogen identified in the Wuhan outbreak. If any coronavirus previously-unreported in Macao were detected in a patient being treated in Macao, its genetic sequence would be compared with the genetic map of the newly-identified Wuhan coronavirus in order either to rule in or rule out a link to the Wuhan outbreak and so diagnose a cause of an illness occurring in Macao.

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