HCMC contains new Covid-19 outbreak thanks to rapid source identification

By Thu Anh, Thuy An   December 5, 2020 | 11:30 pm PT
HCMC contains new Covid-19 outbreak thanks to rapid source identification
A woman talks on the phone at a neighborhood in HCMC's District 6 after it is isolated following detection of a Covid-19 case, December 1, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ha An.
The latest Covid-19 outbreak in HCMC has been put under control in less than a week after swift identification of the transmission source.

On Saturday, Ho Chi Minh City had passed three days without recording any new infections related to its latest outbreak.

This outbreak occurred last weekend, triggered by a leak at a quarantine facility in the city.

A 28-year-old Vietnam Airlines flight attendant violated the regulations imposed at the company’s quarantine facility and contracted the virus from another attendant. The former subsequently breached his self-quarantine rules, transferring the virus to others.

After he was confirmed positive on November 29 and became "patient 1342", the city tracked down all those to have come into close contact with him for isolation and testing.

Through contact tracing, the city identified three other infectees: a teacher who had visited the attendant when the latter was quarantined at home, along with his nephew and a student.

In all, more than 2,200 people have been tracked down as first and second generation of infections (F1and F2).

It was announced Saturday morning that 861 F1 and 1,400 F2 had been confirmed negative.

Difference from Da Nang

Nguyen Tran Nam, head of the infectious disease department at the Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital, said identifying the source of transmission was the decisive factor that made the HCMC outbreak entirely different from the one in central Da Nang City in July and August.

On July 25, a 57-year-old man in Da Nang was confirmed to have contracted Covid-19, tagged "patient 416," after he was admitted to a local hospital for lung disease treatment. At the time, Vietnam had exited its 99 consecutive-day streak with no community transmissions.

However, "patient 416" was not the source of transmission (F0), which remained a mystery, and prevented the city from locating the hotspot and tracking down F1 and F2.

As a result, infection spread quickly across the city, especially among its hospitals, before reaching 15 other cities and provinces, including Hanoi and HCMC, fueling the second wave to hit Vietnam with 550 infections and 35 Covid-19 deaths.

It took two months until September 25 for Da Nang to put its outbreak under control and return to normalcy.

Nam said aside from early F0 identification, HCMC has gained further experience in handling the disease since Covid-19 first entered Vietnam in January.

As a result, the city does not have to apply social restrictions in any wards or districts, only locking down neighborhoods where infections have been confirmed, Nam said.

"All hospitals in the city are safe from Covid-19," he said, adding the HCMC Children’s Hospital, where the teacher’s one-year-old nephew is being treated, has managed to ensure the safety of all other patients and their family members.

Nguyen Viet Nhung, chairman of Vietnam Lung Association, said though HCMC has been able to put out its outbreak it should still be considered a "costly lesson," causing a threat to the public and costing the healthcare sector a significant amount of money.

He said the threat of new infection waves is always present and "we have to further tighten all preventive measures to ensure public safety."

HCMC has opened a criminal investigation into the Vietnam Airlines flight attendant’s breach of Covid-19 quarantine protocols. He has been suspended from his job and will be considered for dismissal.

The Transport Ministry, meanwhile, will examine the anti-pandemic protocols imposed by the national flag carrier.

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