Avoid crowded places, health ministry warns

By Le Nga   January 31, 2020 | 07:32 pm PT
Avoid crowded places, health ministry warns
Medical staff (L) at the National Hospital for Tropical Disease in Hanoi January 31, 2020. The hospital is treating two Vietnamese patients infected with the nCoV. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
The Health Ministry has advised people to avoid crowded places unless absolutely necessary as a safety measure against the deadly new coronavirus.

While the epidemic has been declared a global health emergency, it is still unclear how long the incubation period is and whether healthy people can catch the infection or not, people should stay away from crowded areas, the ministry says.

If it's not an emergency, meetings should be held online to avoid direct contact, a ministry representative said at a news briefing Friday.

The ministry also advised against organizing traditional festival celebrations during this period. This is a season when Vietnam celebrates many spring festivals that usually gather thousands of people in one place.

As for schools, "the ministry is yet to suggest letting students stay home, because Vietnam has not so far detected any cases of infection via transmission among the community," said Tran Dac Phu, former head of the Preventive Medicine Department under the ministry.

The education ministry has already told departments and schools to act on real situations and decide for themselves if they should let students stay home.

Meanwhile, several schools have already let parents decide whether or not to keep their children away from schools and urged students who attend classes to wear masks.

Phu noted that many people are confused about the ongoing pneumonia virus outbreak and epidemic prevention recommendations "must be very reasonable" to avoid "unwanted impacts" on the public.

Ministry experts have said that wearing a mask is one of the best protections against the nCoV infection. In public places, wearing surgical masks is enough to guard against the virus, and only medical staff who directly treat infected patients must use the N95 masks, they have said.

The new coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person, most likely through close contact via particles in the air from coughing or sneezing, or by someone touching an infected person or object with the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

It was announced Saturday that calls to the ministry’s hotline 19003228 for answers and information related to the nCoV can be made free of charge. In recent days, the hotline has been overloaded.

Vietnam has so far recorded five confirmed cases of infection: three Vietnamese returning from Wuhan and two Chinese nationals.

As of Friday, Vietnam had quarantined 97 people in 11 cities and provinces of Hanoi, HCMC, Da Nang, Khanh Hoa, Quang Ninh, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Cao Bang, Ha Giang, Lai Chau and Kien Giang, of whom 32 remain isolated pending test results.

Forty-five rapid response teams have been set up at major hospitals across Vietnam to deal with suspected new coronavirus infections.

The Vietnamese government has deployed various measures to combat the virus, including halting all flights to coronavirus-hit areas, suspending visas for visitors from those regions and quarantining Chinese workers returning to Vietnam after the Lunar New Year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global public health emergency on Thursday.

As of Saturday morning, the nCoV death toll had risen to 259, all of them in China. About 2,100 new cases have also been recorded in the country, putting the worldwide total to almost 12,000.

27 countries and territories have recorded nCoV infections. Apart from China and Vietnam, the others are Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, the U.S., South Korea, France, Germany, Canada, the UAE, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, the U.K., Russia, Finland, Nepal, Sweden, and Spain.

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