Covid threat not over: health ministry

By Le Nga   May 8, 2023 | 10:07 pm PT
Covid threat not over: health ministry
Doctors at HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases treat a Covid-19 patient, April 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The Ministry of Health said the pandemic remains a threat though the World Health Organization has declared Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency.

Phan Trong Lan, director of the ministry's Department of Preventive Medicine, told the media on Monday: "The pandemic is not yet over, Covid-19 has always been changing. It goes wherever there are humans, moves across barriers, and is a global issue."

He warned against letting one's guard down, saying new outbreaks are still occurring around the world.

It might ease in one place but springs up in another, he said.

Vietnam has only ever designated Covid-19 as a national epidemic and never declared a state of emergency.

Lan said the ministry is drafting plans to cope with Covid to "manage it."

"The plan will integrate targeted monitoring with regular monitoring."

Lan refused to say if it is possible to treat Covid-19 as an endemic disease.

The ministry continues to promote mask wearing and disinfection in public places along with vaccinations, he said.

The main goals are to limit the spread of the virus and number of critical patients, he added.

Duong Thi Hong, deputy director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said getting a booster shot is "essential" and assured that Vietnam has enough vaccines for the high-risk group comprising old people and those with chronic diseases.

On Monday the ministry said 84 Covid patients are on oxygen.

In the last week there has been one Covid death every day on average.

Since April everyone who succumbed to the disease have been old or had long-term illnesses.

Angela Pratt, WHO representative in Vietnam, said the flu normally develops strongly during winter but Covid has exhibited no pattern until now.

It is still a new disease, and health experts around the world have had just four years to learn about it compared to decades of studying the flu.

Therefore, though WHO declared an end to the Covid emergency, the pandemic is still there and has not become less dangerous, she warned.

"This is not the time for us to rest and we still have to stay on high alert to have suitable responses."

Vietnam should gear its healthcare system to be ready for any possible worsening of the situation, she said.

She suggested the country should add the Covid-19 vaccine into its national expanded program on immunization under which children get free shots against the most common infectious diseases.

On May 5 WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "It is with great hope that I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency."

WHO's independent emergency committee on the Covid crisis had agreed it no longer merited the organization's highest alert level and "advised that it is time to transition to long-term management of the Covid-19 pandemic," AFP reported.

But the danger is not over, according to Tedros, who estimated Covid had killed "at least 20 million" people, about three times the nearly seven million deaths officially recorded.

"This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it's still changing."

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