HCMC community transmission surge explained

By Huu Cong, Le Cam, Le Phuong   August 19, 2021 | 01:12 am PT
HCMC community transmission surge explained
Traffic congests at a Covid-19 checkpoint on Dinh Bo Linh Street, HCMC's Binh Thanh District, August 15, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
While the HCMC Health Department ascribed the rise in Covid-19 community transmissions to increased testing, experts blamed a lack of social distancing.

On Tuesday, Ho Chi Minh City recorded 3,559 new Covid-19 cases, 2,568 of which were community transmissions, accounting for 72 percent of all new cases that day. A day prior, the figure was over 53 percent, according to a city Covid-19 information portal.

Most districts in the city have seen their number of Covid-19 community transmissions dramatically increase in the last few days, with some areas seeing up to 90 percent of new cases detected within the community.

Despite an ongoing social distancing order, the municipal Department of Health on Monday said the city is carrying out Covid-19 tests throughout its entirety to isolate cases and assess risks in different areas. As more tests are being done, the number of new infections may rise as a result.

Nguyen Truong Son, Deputy Minister of Health, said the social distancing period is a chance for the city to perform mass testing and isolate community cases. Doing so successfully would help contain such cases in their own homes, reducing the burden on the city's medical system, he added.

"The rising number of new cases may make people worry, but it's the reality right now," said Son.

Most community transmissions detected in the past few days are concentrated in areas with high population density, with houses and buildings located in close proximity to each other.

Several experts said the infection surge was the result of people not abiding by coronavirus control measures.

Tran Van Khanh, director of Le Van Thinh Hospital, said the number of vehicles on the street lately has increased dramatically, citing data from the Department of Transport. The fact that many people still go out despite an ongoing social distancing order, combined with poor infrastructure in certain areas, have led to the surge, he said.

Truong Huu Khanh, a counselor at Children's Hospital 1, and doctor Calvin Q Trinh at 1A Hospital both said the city has only managed to separate wards and districts from each other, but not been able to ensure people within the same neighborhood don't come in contact with each other. It is one of the reasons why community cases have been rising, they said.

Despite the worrying trend, Nguyen Huy Nga, former head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, said the number of new cases lately, compared to July, has been on a downward trend. Most detected cases, even in the community, have all been confined in their own homes too, he noted.

Regarding the fact people are going out more often despite a social distancing order, Nga said some have become negligent, while others have simply run out of money and other resources, and need to go out to sustain themselves.

"City leaders need to talk with people to figure out a way to resolve their problems, making sure no one is starving or homeless, and to provide policies to support them with cash or food, so they don't have to go out so often," he said.

HCMC, now the epicenter of Vietnam's fourth coronavirus wave, has recorded 159,917 local Covid-19 cases so far.

The southern city has vaccinated around 70 percent of its population with at least one shot.

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