Don’t let social distancing impede socio-economic activity: PM

By Viet Tuan   August 4, 2020 | 06:00 am PT
Don’t let social distancing impede socio-economic activity: PM
Residents in Da Nang City line up for Covid-19 testing on August 3, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.
Covid-19 affected localities should quickly identify hotspots and fight outbreaks aggressively without impacting areas free of infection, the PM has said.

Cities and provinces that have recorded cases of Covid-19 caused by community transmission have to "consider the scale of social distancing and make it reasonable," Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at a government meeting Monday.

Da Nang, now Vietnam’s Covid-19 epicenter, and other cities and provinces where locally transmitted cases have been detected, like Hanoi and HCMC, must "speed up processes, impose aggressive and drastic methods to detect infections, track down suspect cases and locate stricken areas to put down the outbreaks," he said.

The PM also emphasized that local authorities have to decide on measures that ensure in tandem the effectiveness of preventing infections from spreading and minimizing the impacts on people's lives and socio-economic activities.

Prior to the government’s meeting Monday night, Mai Tien Dung, chairman of the government’s office, told the press that the government’s guideline is to circle the areas where cases have been detected to focus outbreak containment measures.

"Such circles should be of sufficient scale that it can end the outbreak and stop it from spreading further, but at the same time, they should guarantee that businesses carry out their production and trade. The experience of many countries in the world is to apply the strategy of dual goals, combating the pandemic while ensuring economic development," Dung said.

He was responding to a question regarding the suggestion made by HCMC Party chief Nguyen Thien Nhan that a Wuhan-style lockdown be imposed on Da Nang.

Nhan said at a government meeting with local authorities on Sunday that "it is necessary to identify Da Nang as an especially dangerous epicenter and apply the strictest measures to control the outbreak."

He argued that a complete lockdown is necessary as the Health Ministry had said the outbreak in Da Nang has been going on "quietly" for more than one month now, and it is possible that many infected people have yet to show symptoms or be diagnosed.

He also raised concerns over Da Nang's ability to isolate people having or suspected to have the disease, saying quarantining everyone at home should be taken into serious consideration now, implying a complete lockdown of the central coastal city.

Dung, the government office chairman, said that as soon as community transmission of Covid-19 emerged in Da Nang on July 25, authorities had identified all the hotspots – the three hospitals: the Da Nang Hospital; Da Nang Hospital C; and the Orthopedic and Physical Rehabilitation Hospital of Da Nang. They had imposed a lockdown on all three establishments and isolated the neighborhoods around them.

Dung also cited the example of Singapore, which suffered a new wave of infection in April, with the vast majority of new cases detected in the overcrowded dormitories that housed more than 300,000 of Singapore's roughly one million immigrant workers.

To cope with that wave, the government had shut down the entire nation instead of imposing a lockdown on that particular area. Since then, Singapore has had to expend a lot of time, effort and resources to help its businesses recover. From that experience, many experts have said that Singapore should have applied a lockdown on just one stricken area, because 99 percent of cases had been transmitted inside that community of immigrant workers.

Deputy Health Minister Truong Quoc Cuong said the ministry will study the suggestion of quarantining at home made by the HCMC Party secretary.

In case centralized facilities are overloaded, the city should switch to quarantining at home, he said.

Da Nang is still in a 15-day social distancing campaign that started July 28, requiring people to stay at home and maintain a distance of at least two meters from each other in public. Public gatherings of more than two people are prohibited, except at offices, schools and hospitals.

Vietnam imposed such measures nationwide for two weeks in April, after dozens of cases were reported from several outbreaks in Hanoi and HCMC.

As of Tuesday night, the country has recorded 670 Covid-19 cases, 288 of which are active.

Eight people have died since Friday, including two on Tuesday morning, after contracting the virus at hospitals in Da Nang. They were all over 50 and had suffered chronic diseases for years.

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