Tuition centers, entertainment venues to reopen Monday

Tuition centers and continuing education establishments, along with a series of entertainment and leisure venues, have been allowed to resume operations from March 2 under certain conditions decided by the Health Bureau (SSM), as it was announced at the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center’s daily press briefing yesterday.
The resumption of operations by entertainment and leisure venues was made official by Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng in an Executive Order published yesterday.
Entertainment venues have been mandatorily suspended since February 5. The order came alongside a temporary suspension of 41 casinos across the city, which expired on February 20. Unlike casinos, entertainment venues have not been able to reopen to the public since.
Venues that may reopen starting March 2 include cinemas, theaters, indoor playgrounds and game arcades, snooker and billiards halls, saunas, spas, beauty parlors, gyms and health clubs, as well as bars and karaoke venues.
Yesterday was the 23rd consecutive day without a new infection in Macau. Meanwhile, in neighboring areas, Guangdong saw its second day, Zhuhai its ninth day and Zhongshan its 10th day free from new infections.
Yesterday was also Macau’s eighth day of applying quarantine measures to foreign workers trying to enter via Zhuhai.
Considering the improving situation, the SSM has supported the conditional resumption of tuition centers, continuing education establishments, as well as entertainment and leisure venues.
Nonetheless, Bureau director Lei Chin Ion stressed that precautions must still be used while in these facilities or venues, citing World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
“The WHO Director-General has recently pointed out that the outbreak is intensifying elsewhere despite relaxing in China, so all countries should be prepared for a possible major global outbreak,” Lei said.
As such, the health regulator has issued guidelines for these establishments, to the effect that all people inside these establishments must wear masks and these venues must not admit anyone with respiratory symptoms.
Furthermore, these venues should only house half of their permitted capacity at the most at one time. Customers or students must be at least one meter apart. Spot checks will be conducted by licensing departments to ensure compliance with the guidelines.
The Health Bureau director admitted that in some cases these restrictions will be difficult to implement. “A beautician and a customer can hardly be one meter apart during service,” the director admitted. “But I think this restriction is feasible in karaoke venues.”
Despite the reopenings, some venues will remain closed for the time being, such as sports grounds managed by the Sports Bureau (ID) and some facilities managed by the Cultural Affairs Institute (IC).
When asked why these venues would not be reopened, the SSM director declined to give a direct response, but stressed that the IC and the ID would make announcements once a resumption of activities was possible.
He was also questioned about the feasibility of wearing a mask during sport or exercise. “Wearing a mask will not affect breathing or cause breathing difficulties,” the director responded. “Medical staff can wear masks for more than 10 hours in stressful situations, such as in a surgery.”
He added that even if taking off a mask is inevitable, it should only be done for a brief period of time.
Next Monday, extracurricular education facilities, namely tuition centers and continuing education venues, will also resume operating. Guidelines similar to those for entertainment and leisure venues will also apply to extracurricular education facilities. Taking body temperatures and making health declarations upon entry will be enforced at the aforementioned venues as well.
As for the reopening of schools, the DSEJ director did not give a definite date. However, he hinted it might take place in early April, or even earlier.
“After constant communications with schools, we have come up with two criteria to determine the school resumption date,” Lou said. This is the first time the education regulator has given specific hints about school resumption.
“The criteria are when no new infection is seen in both Macau and Guangdong for 14 consecutive days,” Lou stated, “and schools are [reopened] in Zhongshan and Zhuhai.” Once both criteria are met, a resumption date that is two weeks away will be announced.
If a new case is confirmed in either Macau or Guangdong after the resumption announcement is made, Lou said the resumption would be halted.
The reason behind reopening extracurricular education venues but not schools, according to the education bureau, is that schools in Macau hold as many as 80,000 students.
“It is a much larger population [than tuition classes],” Lou said. “Not to mention the pressure on transportation and other community facilities [when school resumes].”
Apart from the above, Lou said extracurricular education is voluntary, as opposed to foundational education being compulsory.
Graduating high school students should not worry too much, Lou said, as university admission exams have been postponed. More importantly, “everyone is now on the same starting line,” the education chief stated.
Kindergarten admission interviews have also been postponed to early April. Lou said the feedback from kindergartens show that further postponement, although not desired, is feasible.
Lou emphasized that the DSEJ will not require schools to make up for the suspension period. However, schools have the discretion to extend lectures daily, weekly or into July. August must be considered holiday for students.
Since he was not overseeing higher education, Lou stressed that he was not in a position to make comments about it, so the dates for university resumption are still unknown.

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