Covid-19 epicenter Da Nang to screen all families, possibly ease social distancing

By Nguyen Dong   September 1, 2020 | 01:33 am PT
Covid-19 epicenter Da Nang to screen all families, possibly ease social distancing
Students in Da Nang wait to take the novel coronavirus tests before their national high school exam, August 31, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.
Da Nang will collect samples of 200,000 families yet to be tested for the new coronavirus to prevent any possible community infections.

In the past two days, authorities in central Da Nang City, a tourism hotspot that became Vietnam's Covid-19 epicenter in late July, have listed all families whose members have yet to be tested for the new coronavirus.

In all, around 200,000 families have been counted.

Accordingly, each family will send one member for Covid-19 mass testing. In case anyone tests positive, their family would be isolated and all members screened.

Ngo Thi Kim Yen, director of Da Nang Health Department, said mass testing will help track all new coronavirus infectees that might have slipped the net.

"The result will provide a foundation for the city to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, from which authorities could decide to ease social distancing," she said.

Social distancing was imposed across the city on July 28, and then extended on August 11.

Residents are required to stay home and only go out to buy food or medicine, to work in factories or manufacturing facilities, act as service providers, or in case of emergency. Gathering of more than two people in public is banned and a minimum distance of two meters between each other in public must be maintained.

The move came after the Da Nang reported a domestic Covid-19 case, the first which ended Vietnam's 99-day streak with no community transmission of the novel coronavirus, on July 25. Infection then spread quickly across hospitals in the city to patients and their family members, turning Da Nang into an epicenter with 389 community infections.

"More mass testing will put residents at ease," said Hoa, 63, who lives on Hoang Hoa Tham Street of Thanh Khe District.

He and his partner run a street-side coffee shop and have had to shut down their business for the past month.

Da Nang is home to around 220,000 families or 1.1 million people. Between July 24 and August 31, Da Nang had tested 225,170 residents, many of whom live in neighborhoods with positive cases or had close contact with them.

On Monday and Tuesday, tests had been conducted among 14,000 students attending the national high school exam as well as examiners. This mean 14,000 families have had their members screened for the virus.

As planned, mass testing of the remaining families will commence Thursday.

"We will try our best to complete the entire mass testing process in less than five days. If it takes us any longer, the initiative will lose its value by failing to provide the city a comprehensive picture to conduct its next move," said Yen.

"Result from mass testing, however, should be considered relative, since we cannot test all 1.1 million residents at once," she stressed.

Da Nang currently has four facilities qualified to test for the new coronavirus using polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) screening, the most trusted method currently. The facilities are Da Nang Hospital, Da Nang Hospital for Lung Diseases, Hospital 199, and the Da Nang Center for Disease Control.

Its testing capacity could reach 14,000 samples per day.

Vietnam has so far recorded 1,044 Covid-19 cases. Of these, 301 are still under treatment and 34 have died.

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