PH consul to Pinoys in Macau: Do not politicize COVID tests
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Consulate General in Macau on Saturday dismissed claims that the government order requiring Filipinos living and working in the casino haven to take daily COVID-19 tests was a racist and discriminatory policy, insisting that it was purely a health measure that should not be politicized.
The health authorities of the Chinese special administrative region, which is dealing with the worst outbreak of coronavirus infections since 2020, on Thursday mandated all Filipinos to have themselves tested from July 22 to July 24.
Some members of the Filipino community in Macau, estimated to number around 30,000, were indignant over what they described as a racially offensive order.
But the consulate, headed by Consul General Porfirio Mayo Jr., chastised the critics.
“The Philippine Consulate General, at the outset of this directive, has issued its position taking the directive as purely a health issue. And yet there are those who remain focused on politicizing this,” it said.
The consulate pointed out that Macau had previously implemented a similar scheme that subjected other foreign nationals to a more frequent COVID-19 testing.
The frequent tests proved successful and nobody opposed it for being discriminatory, it said.
“Are we Filipinos better than our sisters and brothers from our neighbor countries just because we have a significant number in Macau?” the consulate said.
“The Filipino community and other migrant communities belonging to the larger society of Macau are now facing a serious threat,” the consulate said. “Let us all be part of the solution and provide our support and cooperation in fulfilling our role to help overcome this clear and present danger.”
Early this year, Macau directed migrant workers from Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam to get tested regularly for a limited period.
The Philippine consulate had noted that 171 Filipinos were positive for the coronavirus, or nearly 10 percent of the active cases in Macau.
“Let us avoid making this order a political issue,” Mayo stressed. “We should see this as a health issue in the overall objectives of those in charge to attain the dynamic ‘zero-COVID’ target.”
More than 90 percent of Macau’s residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but authorities have closely followed China’s zero-COVID mandate, which seeks to curb all outbreaks at almost any cost, contrary to the rest of the world which is already living with the virus.
On Thursday, Macau announced that it would reopen its casinos on Saturday as it sought to unwind some stringent measures which locked down the world’s biggest gambling hub for 12 days to curb its worst outbreak of COVID-19.
Authorities will also extend mass coronavirus testing of the city’s more than 600,000 residents.
While casinos will formally reopen, there will probably be little business for several weeks, executives and analysts said, with many coronavirus rules set to remain in place, according to a Reuters report.
The government wanted to keep casinos open to protect jobs and livelihoods, as most of the population in the China-ruled territory were employed directly or indirectly by the gaming resorts.
Residents are still required to stay home apart from those who need to go out for “work, shopping or other urgent reasons,” the Macau government statement said.
The former Portuguese colony has recorded around 1,800 COVID-19 infections since mid-June. This is the first time Macau has had to grapple with the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Macau’s casinos are soaking up losses as they prepare to bid for new licenses by next month in a business that generated $36 billion in revenue in 2019, the last year before COVID-19 curbs slammed the sector.
—WITH A REPORT FROM REUTERS
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