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Covid-19 should be a common illness for now: medical expert

By Viet Tuan   February 12, 2022 | 04:30 am PT
Covid-19 should be a common illness for now: medical expert
People visit a pagoda in Hanoi during the Lunar New Year holiday on February 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
With a high vaccination rate, Vietnam should now start living with Covid-19 and prepare to resume normalcy, according to the Hanoi Medical University Hospital director.

"With the Omicron variant having dominated global coronavirus infections and penetrated Vietnam, I think we have moved past the pandemic peak and are now likely on the downward slope," Associate Professor and Dr. Nguyen Lan Hieu told VnExpress in an interview.

Omicron has been confirmed by different countries to be less likely to cause severe conditions and fatalities among young Covid-19 patients.

There is a one third reduction in the risk of going to hospital associated with the Omicron variant compared to Delta, researchers at Imperial College London confirmed in scientific publication issued by the British government in January.

The reduction in risk from Omicron compared to Delta increased to two-thirds when looking at severe outcomes like formal admission or death, the researchers said.

"It means we have overcome the toughest time," said Hieu.

However, for now, with the rapid spread of the Omicron strain, it could be concluded that there is no hope of zero Covid anymore.

"At this point, it is necessary to consider Covid-19 an endemic disease like any other disease that people usually get all the time. It means if you get it, you would visit the Covid-19 specialist department of a hospital for examination and treatment."

The payment for Covid-19 medical examination and treatment also needs to be treated like any other disease instead of being covered by the state budget as currently, he suggested.

It is necessary to consider getting Covid-19 normal and avoid getting panicked if infected. The community also needs to change its mindset about Covid-19 patients and restrain from alienating them.

Be prepared

Doctor Hieu said with a high vaccination rate, Vietnam should now get ready for the post-Covid era.

So far, 74.6 million of the nation’s 96-million population have received their second Covid-19 vaccine shot, and 31 million, their third.

Nguyen Lan Hieu, director of the Hanoi Medical University Hospital. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Nguyen Lan Hieu, director of the Hanoi Medical University Hospital. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

"I think Vietnam is on the right track when switching from its zero-Covid policy to safely responding to Covid-19."

Once Vietnam is able to look at Covid-19 as a common disease, "we can completely live calmly with Covid-19 and actively reopen socio-economic activities," he said.

For now, "we should wait to see how the entire world responds to Omicron to see if we could announce the end of the Covid-19 pandemic."

However, Vietnam should not wait until the world declares the end of the pandemic, but prepare to adapt to the post-Covid period.

First, macro policies should be prepared to amend regulations to treat Covid-19 like a common disease.

In the meantime, solutions to prevent Covid-19 spread should be made consistent among localities and adjusted to achieve the highest efficiency, Hieu said and pointed out several rules he thought have caused more trouble than help to prevent Covid-19 infection.

"Currently when getting on a plane, passengers must keep a distance from each other but then once on the plane, they all have to sit close together. Meanwhile, students have returned to school already but schools are not allowed to accommodate them for lunch, he said."

Hieu said he hopes that in future there would be no more "shutting down and reopening" due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

"Getting back to normal is feasible if the Omicron strain is as shown by studies not as aggravating as the Delta variant."

He predicted that the Omicron wave would achieve its peak in February and decline in March.

By late March, if severe cases caused by Covid-19 keep falling, Vietnam can rest assured to fully reopen, he said.

According to official data from the Ministry of Health, the number of severe patients in the past week has remained at 15,326 per day on average, compared to 19,000 the previous week.

Policymakers should also pay attention to setting up specialized departments to take care of those that have recovered from Covid-19 as the disease has been reported to leave certain impacts on the health of former patients, both physically and mentally, Hieu said.

On the other hand, Vietnam should also prepare medical resources to deal with Covid-19 in the long run, he said.

He also noticed that being optimistic about the future does not mean everyone should let their guard down during this period, because Vietnam has yet to vaccinate the group of under 12 years old and until now, there are still elderly people with underlying health conditions that do not want to get vaccinated.

He suggested people should still wear masks in public spaces and disinfect their hands regularly while authorities speed up the vaccination rate and review all elderly cases that have yet to get the shot.

 
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