Gov’t prepares to receive some 400 overseas students

In this March 2020 file photo, medical professionals demonstrate to airport ground staff and government the proper way to put on protective gear

The government is finding ways to help some 400 overseas Macau students return home when they finish the school year, Inês Chan, an official from the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), disclosed at yesterday’s Covid-19 press conference.
Chan revealed that since the last retrieval operation ended on April 1, Macau residents have intermittently expressed their intentions to return home.
“[The challenge] is not only from the halting of dedicated shuttle services, but also from the fact that nearly 90% of international flights have been suspended,” the official explained, “making the return trip of overseas Macau residents exceptionally difficult.” She stressed that the government has to abide with international requirements.
According to Chan, the Tourism Crisis Management Office has been providing assistance to these residents on a case-by-case basis. “We have provided information and recommendations to them in response to the type of inquiries they made,” Chan said.
As many as 400 students in over 30 countries, have expressed their intention to come home.
June is the end of the school year in many countries. Hence, the tourism authority expects this phase of the retrieval operation to start in mid to late June. “The government is working to find possibilities to help them come back,” Chan said. Immigration restrictions in their cities need to be considered as well, she added.
“This is not a decision solely made by Macau. It also depends on the results of negotiations with other jurisdictions,” Chan stressed. “The government welcomes the return of all Macau residents.”
“The halting was a global phenomenon,” she added. “We’re willing to try all possibilities.”
Chan added that the health authority is also prepared for any conditions that may arise with the next homecoming mission, saying, “the global situation is changing continuously.”
“The possibility of Macau residents returning relies on the measures in effect in our neighboring cities,” Chan said. “On the one hand, we need to look at the condition of these returnees. On the other, how and when they can start their journeys.”
When questioned on whether the government would consider chartering aircraft to retrieve the Macau residents from some of the overseas locations, Chan stressed that the government would consider all possible means provided that the government is capable of handling them.
“For the time being, there are certain restrictions that lower the possibility [of chartering flights],” Chan said. “As previously mentioned, there is no [big aircraft to conduct] long-haul flights in Macau.”
The last student retrieval operation ended in April. More than 1,000 overseas Macau students returned.
Some members of the public have been blaming the government for the border closures. Alvis Lo Iek Long, medical director of the public Conde São Januário Hospital, explained that the relaxing of any restrictions depends on a lot of various factors, on top of many discussions, negotiations and communications.
“As previously explained, [with regards to the relaxation of restrictions,] Macau has to discuss this with Guangdong and Hong Kong,” Lo stressed. “With that, we need to take many issues into account.”
Lo also said that before being implemented, measures need to be discussed and assessed with the health authorities in the other jurisdictions, adding that this decision was not solely at the discretion of the Macau Health Bureau. For the time being, transit services at Macau International Airport remain suspended.

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