The new quarantine rule commenced in Macau from midnight on Saturday (November 12) and effectively extends the isolation period of those arriving in Macau from Covid-19 risk areas from seven to eight days.
The announment came just several hours after China eased its quarantine measure for incoming travelers.
The previous measure (7+3) allowed people to leave quarantine hotels after seven days of observation with a yellow code. This meant that despite accompanying precautionary measures, people could work and walk freely around the city. Conversely, under the new 5+3 rule, three days of health self-management need to be observed with a red health code, preventing people to work in or enter any public or private venue.
As the director of the Health Bureau (SSM), Alvis Lo, explained in a specially-arranged press conference on Friday afternoon, the aim is to ensure that, after leaving their quarantine hotels, people will continue to remain in confinement at home and only leave their homes to undergo the mandatory nucleic acid tests (NATs) during these three days.
Initially seen as an easing on Covid-19 prevention and control measures, in reality the guidelines force those who wish or need to return to Macau into almost complete isolation for eight days, which is one day more than before.
Visitors to Macau without a place of residence after the five days in quarantine will be forced to book another quarantine venue to undergo the three days of self-observation.
To cope with this new wave of residents and visitors whose Macau health codes will now be red, health authorities have adjusted the operations of 14 NAT stations. These include the former Macau Canidrome, the Taipa Stadium roundabout, University of Macau, Macau University of Science and Technology Stadium, Riviera Macau Bus Terminal, Jardim da Flora, Rua da Pérola Oriental leisure area, Trust Leisure Garden Terminal, Comendador Ho Yin Garden (Chinese Ethnic Sculpture Park), Hong Kung Temple Square, Seac Pai Van Health Post, Sam Ka, Travessa Central da Praia Grande (next to Grand Emperor Hotel) and the leisure area at Rua Oito do Bairro Iao Hon which, as of Saturday, includes a special lane for those with red health codes.
Another of the changes influenced by the new policy is that NATs conducted by those under a red code must be tested individually on a one sample per tube basis. This is reflected directly in the price for the tests done on the first, second and third day, which will cost at least three times more than the previous price of 45 patacas per test.
Those leaving their homes to undergo a NAT will also be required to undergo a Rapid Antigen Test and upload the result to the reporting platform. If they do not, they will be prevented from entering the NAT stations.
Taxi drivers may refuse passengers with red codes
Those with a red health code will be authorized to drive private vehicles, be transported by friends or family, or take a taxi to travel between their homes or quarantine venues and the nucleic acid test station to comply with the new Covid-19 control measures.
Other than those means, other modes of public transport such as buses and the light rail are not allowed.
Taxi drivers may transport code red passengers; however, they may also refuse to do so and such refusal will not be illegal.
Taxi drivers who decide to take code red passengers must follow the health authorities’ guidelines. They must not allow people with red codes to sit in the front passenger seat, must maintain adequate ventilation in the taxi, and everyone inside the taxi must wear a facemask at all times.
Payment should also be made through a contactless system (such as mobile payment) to avoid the exchange of cash between passengers and drivers.
After each trip involving passengers with a red code, the taxi driver must clean and disinfect the vehicle interior.
The rules also state that where possible, separators should be installed between the driver’s compartment and the rear seats.