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Hanoi to stop taking coronavirus test swabs at airport

By Thuy Quynh, Le Phuong   March 19, 2020 | 08:55 am PT
Hanoi to stop taking coronavirus test swabs at airport
A medical officer takes samples from passengers at Noi Bai International Airport, March 18, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Passengers arriving at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport will submit health declarations and have samples taken for Covid-19 tests in quarantine zones.

The change of procedures, effective Thursday morning, aims at reducing congestion and to ensure that the entire immigration process at the airport will not take longer than 2.5 hours, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said Wednesday. 

The airport will also open another arrival gate and arrange routes in such manner that the military is able to reach passengers faster and escort them to quarantine zones.

Hanoi had mobilized nearly 100 medical officers at Noi Bai International Airport to share the workload, dividing them into teams for help in taking samples (swabs from the nose and back of the throat) from arriving passengers and crew. However, this was not easing congestion.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the city’s Health Department, said that starting Wednesday, the city has begun quarantining people arriving from China, South Korea, Iran, the U.S, ASEAN nations, and 46 European countries and territories.

Medical staff will collect swab samples at Tan Son Nhat International Airport itself. Priority in sample collection will go to people coming from Malaysia in light of the number of cases rising rapidly in the Southeast Asian country after a religious gathering attended by thousands.

Vietnam has reported two Malaysia returnees being infected after attending an Islamic event in the country that gathered more than 16,000 people. Hundreds of its participants in Malaysia have contracted the novel coronavirus.

"If congestion worsens at the airport, sample testing will be done at centralized quarantine zones," Binh said.

Samples will be double checked at the Pasteur Institute in HCMC to confirm diagnosis. Those who test positive will be immediately quarantined and treated. Those testing negative will be quarantined for 14 days. Test results will be announced within 24 hours since samples are taken.

The HCMC Department of Health has worked with the city’s High Command and Military Zone 7 to expand quarantine zones. Most people arriving in Saigon will be sent to a centralized quarantine facility at Military Zone 7 school in District 12 where their samples will be tested. Depending on the result, the persons will be relocated to an appropriate quarantine zone.

HCMC has prepared over 20,000 test kits (a kit’s good for 50 tests) for April and another 20,000 kits for the months of May and June, Binh added.

Since March 6, Vienam has confirmed 69 Covid-19 infections, including 23 foreigners. Until then the country had gone 22 days without any new infection.

Sixteen patients had previously recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

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