AL Plenary

Lawmaker calls for less disruptive Covid-19 restrictions

Lawmaker José Pereira Coutinho condemned the recent Covid-19 restrictions in his pre-
agenda speech yesterday.

Coutinho noted that despite the 14 mass SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test (NAT) drives undertaken during the June 18 outbreak, the latest mass NAT drive was beset with issues. The past two days saw difficult bookings, long wait periods, and sudden booking cancellations in the latest mass NAT drive. He said he found it unacceptable that nobody was held accountable.

He revealed that unannounced cancellations to prior healthcare bookings for sample collection and testing at the Ocean Health Centre also occurred. According to Coutinho, many service seekers had either fasted overnight or were required to hold onto their urine samples while waiting without assistance at the public healthcare facility.

Regarding the Lusofonia Festival, the lawmaker was dissatisfied with the government’s abrupt termination of the event on its last day. He stated that this caused financial loss to participating entities and negatively affected the role of the event and Macau more broadly in promoting harmony between China and Lusophone countries. In addition, he blamed the government for failing to thoroughly consider the consequences before calling off the event, and “following no standard.”

Based on the abrupt suspension of the Lusofonia Festival, the lawmaker demanded the government explain whether the upcoming Grand Prix and Food Festival would also face similar disruptions, based on existing criteria and assessments.

“Will the same [disruptions] occur to prevent crowds from gathering and lower the risk of outbreaks? Or will the government favor one event over another?” the lawmaker questioned.

Coutinho criticized the government for lacking political sensitivity in its decision to suspend the 25-year-old major event, highlighting the need to foster cultural interactions as part of a national policy to make progress in China-lusophone relations.

Describing the government’s decision to suspend the event as “discriminatory”, Coutinho highlighted the defeat that would be felt within the local Portuguese-speaking community as a result of the decision. The local Portuguese-speaking community, he said, had been “working for the betterment of the Macau Special Administrative Region with diligence, dedication and passion.”

At the same occasion, trade unionist lawmaker Ella Lei said that the infinite and ever-changing Covid-19 restrictions have fatigued many residents. She pointed out that according to government contingencies, larger-scale outbreaks will trigger even tighter restrictions, including but not limited to de-facto lockdowns and work suspensions.

Citing a previous reply to her inquiry from the government, she emphasized that she did not see any long-term and institutional economic support.

Lei said that various forms of institutionalized financial and livelihood support for employees were present in places such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. For example, in Hong Kong, Covid-19 positive workers undergoing quarantine are considered to be on sick leave, and may be eligible for subsidies should certain criteria be met.

Lei continued to stress that employees in Macau, whether in the public or private sectors, have faced differing treatment in compensation and remuneration after being quarantined or treated in isolation.

Zone A matters

Banker-lawmaker Ip Sio Kai, meanwhile, focused on the development of the New Urban Zone A and noted that while Zone A has been positioned primarily as a residential district, community-level commercial facilities will be part of the development efforts. Such facilities will help to satisfy residents’ day-to-day needs and foster greater community interactions.

Ip expressed the belief that greater marketization of the development of Zone A would encourage the creation products and services that are more closely aligned to market needs, maximize land value on the reclaimed district. Commercializing the development would also reinvigorate the market, Ip added.

Another reason in support of his proposal, Ip said, is that the government had spent a lot of money during the pandemic. The city has run on budget deficits for nearly three years. As such, if the government were to expand its investments in the development of Zone A, it would both add to its financial burden and also extend the duration of development.

He highlighted the failed case of Seac Pai Van as an example, echoing a previous inquiry by his colleague, lawmaker Ron Lam. Numerous retail spaces in the public housing district have been left vacant due to the low concordance between market needs and what the government had predicted.

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