THE Macau government will start the repatriation of Macau residents from Hubei Province this coming weekend, the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center announced yesterday, alongside the details of the mission. The Center has shortlisted the first batch of 65 Macau residents currently in the central Chinese province, 50 of whom are willing to return to the special administrative region. The other 15, meanwhile, have chosen to remain in Hubei out of personal consideration. A charter flight operated by local flag carrier, Air Macau, will depart for Wuhan and repatriate the people this Saturday. “The mission has a considerable risk,” Lei Chin Ion, director of the Health Bureau (SSM) told yesterday’s daily press briefing. “Earlier, dean Gabriel Leung of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong also commented on the high risk of the Hong Kong government’s mission to repatriate their residents from the province.”
The bureau’s director stressed that as it has to be done, plans and contingencies must be secured to ensure safety of everyone taking part, including flight crew and other supporting staff from the government. “The risk will be taken by the entire society,” the director pointed out. Strict measures will be levied on the group of people. They include submission of a health evaluation form distributed by the SSM as the first step. The form will ask whether they have been to a hospital, were in contact with an infected patient, had any respiratory symptoms or chronic diseases. Connecting transport to the airport will be their own arrangement as the SSM director reminded that this part of the operation could be very risky. The returnees are required to abide with the government’s instructions. They will have to be fully dressed in protective wear and required to remain in their seats for the duration of the flight. As such, diapers will be distributed to them. No hand luggage will be allowed, which means all luggage will be checked in. Upon arrival in Macau, all bags will be sanitized.
Lei said the government has prepared for the worst-case scenario, which is a wave of new infections of at most 15 people, considering the province’s infection rate being between 3% to 10%. Currently there are 148 Macau ID holders in Hubei. Nonetheless, the risk of their return leading to a community outbreak should be small, according to Lei. “Upon arrival in Macau, they will be quarantined for 14 days at our facility in Coloane.” Extra charter flights may be possible but the government is still evaluating that possibility. The SSM director admitted the government has faced public pressure about the repatriation of the Macau residents. “Of course, it is our responsibility to take care of Macau residents,” the director said. “Furthermore, we have been receiving complaints from those stranded Macau residents and the media. Other countries’ repatriations have given hope to these Macau residents.”