HONG KONG (Reuters) – Macau’s government will allow people infected with COVID-19 to isolate at home from Wednesday, a key step towards relaxing strict virus control measures in the world’s gambling hub for the first time in almost three years.
Health officials said that infected patients would be able to stay at home and self-monitor for five days. This would help to reduce pressure on medical resources and maintain the “normal functioning of society”, the health bureau said in a statement on Sunday.
Macau, a Chinese special administrative region, has directly followed the mainland’s coronavirus strategy since 2020, given its huge reliance on Chinese visitors to fuel its gambling-dependent economy.
China has also begun relaxing its COVID-19 control measures.
Last week, Macau announced an easing of quarantine rules for overseas arrivals, to five days of hotel quarantine plus three days of home isolation, while ending the routine testing of visitors from China and no longer locking down entire buildings when a confirmed case is discovered.
Macau has retained an open border with the neighbouring Chinese city of Zhuhai throughout the pandemic, although movement has been constrained by requirements for permits and testing, and other restrictions. Many people work and live on both sides of the border and commute daily.
The former Portuguese colony, home to more than 600,000 people, has recorded just over 900 COVID cases since 2020 and six deaths.
Macau Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao said last week that up to 80% of the city’s population would likely get COVID following a significant easing of pandemic isolation and testing rules.
The densely packed hub has only one public hospital and an already overburdened healthcare system. Officials have urged residents not to worry about contracting the virus since most cases involve mild or no symptoms.
(Reporting by Farah Master and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Edmund Klamann)
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