As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic moves around the globe, dozens of governments have imposed travel restrictions and lockdowns to prevent the pandemic from worsening. The Macao SAR Government has been helping Macao residents that are beyond its boundaries, to get round travel restrictions to return home.
One of the main actions taken by the Macao SAR Government, in cooperation with the Hong Kong SAR Government, was to charter coaches to take passengers arriving at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) across the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to Macao.
The coaches were first chartered shortly after the Hong Kong SAR Government announced on 24 February that it would deny entry to the city to any traveller that had been to South Korea in the previous 14 days. The authorities in Macao and Hong Kong subsequently agreed that residents of Macao should be allowed to pass through the HKIA and ride coaches directly to Macao. Macao residents had to tell the Macao Tourism Crisis Management Office about their journeys in advance to access the service. Between 26 February and 2 March, 33 Macao residents returned safely to Macao from South Korea via Hong Kong.
Coaches were again chartered to take passengers from Hong Kong’s airport to Macao during the period of 19 March to 31 March, after Hong Kong first ordered all travellers arriving in the city from abroad to be quarantined for 14 days, and subsequently closed its borders to all travellers that had been out of Greater China in the preceding 14 days, except residents of Hong Kong.
The chartered coach service has brought home from HKIA more than 2,000 Macao residents, including many studying at universities in Europe or North America, who were subsequently quarantined in Macao for 14 days.
Rescue mission to Hubei
Macao authorities have also mounted a special operation to bring home 57 Macao residents that were stranded in Wuhan or cities nearby in Hubei Province. The Mainland Chinese authorities locked down several cities in Hubei in late January in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. In the middle of March the authorities began gradually easing the restrictions on movement into, out of or around those cities.
The Macao SAR Government chartered an Air Macau aircraft to bring home stranded Macao residents on 7 March. The airline contributed to the effort to counter the effects of the pandemic by bearing all of the costs of the charter.
The stranded residents belong to 31 families. The youngest was three months old and the oldest 77 years of age. The people had been staying in a variety of cities in Hubei, including Wuhan, Xiaogan, Huanggang, Xianning, Suizhou, Xiangyang, Enshi, Yichang, Huangshi and Shiyan.
When they arrived at Macao international Airport they boarded chartered coaches that took them to the Public Health Clinical Centre in Coloane, where they were quarantined for 14 days. Tests found that none carried the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The mission went smoothly. The aircraft had an all-volunteer crew of seven, and carried six healthcare professionals belonging to the Macao SAR Government Health Bureau and two representatives of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), including MGTO Training and Quality Management Department Head Doris Leong, who led the mission.
The Central Government, the Liaison Office of the Central Government in the Macao Special Administrative Region, and the Hubei Government supported the mission.