Avoid hospitalization for mild Covid cases: experts

By Viet Tuan   July 5, 2021 | 04:14 pm PT
Avoid hospitalization for mild Covid cases: experts
Doctors treat a Covid-19 patient at the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases. Photo courtesy of the hospital.
Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms should be isolated at home to reduce the burden on hospitals as more cases will be recorded in the coming time, experts say.

Nguyen Viet Nhung, director of the National Lung Hospital, said Covid-19 patients should be categorized into different categories based on the extent of their vulnerability to the disease’s potential impacts.

Those with severe symptoms, the elderly and those with underlying conditions need to be treated at medical facilities, but those with mild symptoms and no serious comorbidities should be isolated in their own homes, he said.

Vietnam’s success in controlling its Covid-19 outbreaks over the last two years has been based on rigorous detection, contact tracing and isolation protocols wherein all patients are required to be treated in medical facilities. But, as the fourth coronavirus wave has swept through the country since late April, such a strategy may not work as effectively as before due to the presence of highly transmissible variants, Nhung said.

For example, HCMC, Vietnam's economic powerhouse, overtook Bac Giang Sunday to become the worst-hit locality under the fourth wave, recording nearly 7,000 local cases so far.

The southern metropolis has consistently recorded several hundred cases a days, with over 700 on the peak day to date.

"It is anticipated that outbreaks will only get worse going ahead, with high numbers of infections recorded, posing great difficulties for hospitals. If the number of patients goes into the thousands, it would stretch the hospitals' treatment capacities," said Nhung.

Citing reports saying 84 percent of novel coronavirus patients are either asymptomatic or experience only mild symptoms that don't require medical intervention, Nhung said the usual strategy of keeping all Covid-19 cases in hospitals would be too costly and "unnecessary."

For Covid-19 patients to be successfully isolated at home, certain conditions must be met, including housing and ventilation standards, requiring patients to wear oximeters and monitor their own health, and requiring all their family members to be isolated as well.

"The standards and conditions need to be communicated. Covid-19 patients and family members must guarantee to abide by the protocols and violators dealt strictly in accordance with the law," Nhung said, adding that hotlines could be established to mentally and emotionally support Covid-19 patients in isolation.

Agreeing with Nhung's suggestions, Nguyen Huy Nga, former head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health, said isolating Covid-19 patients in their own homes should be done in conjunction with isolating close contacts as well, since they too have a high risk of contracting the virus and becoming patients themselves.

"Hospitals' resources should be focused on treating severe cases. Isolating Covid-19 patients and their close contacts at home would not burden the medical system. It would also be a solution to a long-term problem, where we need to learn to coexist with the coronavirus," Nga said, adding that resources are also needed to treat other serious medical conditions like cancer.

In Covid-19 hotspots like HCMC and its neighbor Binh Duong, medical facilities can become overloaded in the near future, so isolation at home should be tried.

To monitor Covid-19 patients in self-isolation, cameras or tracking wristbands could be used, Nga said.

The fourth coronavirus wave since April 27 has infected 17,820 people in 55 of Vietnam's 63 cities and provinces.

HCMC now leads the tally with 6,905, followed by Bac Giang with 5,668 cases.

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