Macau working on travel bubble arrangements

Work is in progress to develop travel bubbles with nearby jurisdictions, Dr. Leong Iek Hou from the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center disclosed yesterday at the regular health briefing on Covid-19 matters.
Lau Fong Chi, head of the Public Relations Division of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), also confirmed that preliminary meetings have been held to discuss the matter.
Travel bubbles have surfaced as a discussion topic because Covid-19 has disrupted cross-border travel. When it first broke out in Macau, links between the city and mainland China were cut, leaving inter-city travel practically impossible.
Leong said yesterday that the Health Bureau has held meetings with the MGTO. “We will not rule out the possibility of commencing such work,” she said. “However, the premise is that we can ensure the implementation of our disease preventive measures.”
The center fears that the movement of people may bring in new infections and is remaining vigilant as tourism endorsement resumes in mainland China.
“[In addition], places with which we negotiate the realization of a travel bubble must have similarly safe epidemic condition to ours. We don’t want to cause any extra risk to our disease prevention,” Leong added.
Although non-resident workers are allowed to exit Macau, once they are out they have no way to get back in. Since the early phases of the outbreak, Macau has banned the entry of foreign passport bearers.
Leong assured that the government was working towards a direction to allow people from other places to travel to Macau. “The main direction is to implement travel bubbles,” Leong said.
Lau made additional comments aligning with Leong’s revelations.
“In addition, nearby places have started working towards that direction as well,” said Lau, referring to neighboring Hong Kong.
Lau noted that comparing and contrasting each place’s epidemic condition is crucial.
“However, when we started thinking about the idea, we [examined] the requirement to examine each place’s epidemic conditions, prevention measures, quantity of local and imported infections, etc. We need to get a grasp of [their] situation,” she explained.
Leong also explained that travel bubbles concern immigration measures as well. “When we implement the arrangement, both places need to enact corresponding or coordinating immigration policies or measures.”
Details about transportation will need to be determined too, according to the official. For example, if tourists from both sides travel by airplane, more considerations will need to be taken, such as the existence of transit passengers.
“We need to determine in advance and in detail if a transit passenger has tested positive when in Macau, and what procedures should be taken,” Lau said. “For the time being, we’re still at a very early stage of exploration and discussion.”
When questioned about the progress of vaccine procurement, Leong disclosed that the government has just signed agreements with two international entities to highlight its will to purchase the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Last week, we have signed agreements with the WHO and The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization [GAVI] on our desire to purchase Covid-19 vaccine,” Leong disclosed. “However, supply by GAVI will be later and it usually prioritizes places with greater needs.”
The SSM will purchase a total of 1.4 million Covid-19 vaccines because two shots are needed for one course of vaccination. This amount is based on the population estimate of 700,000.
Details are still being negotiated and information will be announced when available.

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