HCMC leader calls for fortnight of thrift as Covid-19 fight escalates

By Huu Cong   March 25, 2020 | 12:00 am PT
HCMC leader calls for fortnight of thrift as Covid-19 fight escalates
A beer shop on Bui Vien backpacker street in HCMC is closed upon a city order, March 14, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
HCMC's Party Secretary asked all city residents to remain home in the next two weeks to help Vietnam keep total infections below 500.

"The city and country have two critical weeks to decide whether to win the Covid-19 battle or not. If this golden opportunity is missed, we won’t have another chance," Party Secretary Nguyen Thien Nhan informed a meeting Tuesday.

The U.S., where the first Covid-19 infection occurred on January 23, the same day as in Vietnam, recorded 44,000 cases as of Wednesday, the figure forecast to hit 90,000 by March 30, surpassing China where the epidemic first broke out last December.

"Within a month, the situation has changed so horribly no one could have foreseen it," Nhan stressed.

Vietnam currently has 134 infections, of which 17 have recovered.

"In the next two weeks, by any means, we have to join hands to keep the number of infected in the country under 1,000, preferably at 500. If we let infections exceed 1,000, we would fall like Italy, Spain, and Germany," Nhan said.

Statistics from epidemic-stricken countries show the number of patients increased from 2,000 to 4,000 in just three days; from 4,000 to 8,000 in five, meaning an average of 800 more per day.

In four more days, the number will increase from 8,000 to 16,000 - an additional 2,000 infected each day. With this amount, the timely construction of new hospitals is impossible - just like in Italy, and Wuhan of China's Hubei Province.

HCMC now accounts for a third of the country’s infection tally. In case there are 1,000 cases nationwide, the city will have about 300, for which it has enough ICU beds, Nhan said.

However, Nhan’s top concern was that when a person was confirmed positive, 280 others would be quarantined. In case of 300, about 84,000 would have to be isolated.

"This is a worrying figure – everyone has the responsibility to not let this happen," he stated.

Nhan proposed the city learn from Japan and South Korea, which have prevented people from returning to affected areas and carry out Covid-19 tests for those in need.

Suspected cases are immediately isolated, and at the same time all crowded events are stopped. In addition, they severely punish those escaping quarantine and selling expensive or used masks.

A change in lifestyle

Nhan asked the Religious Affairs Committee and related agencies to follow European and Asian countries in minimizing and closing down religious events. Currently, on Saturday and Sunday, churches still hold ceremonies; therefore, the risk of spreading the disease is very high.

Nhan stressed city residents must limit going out at this time, especially older people above 60, and not gather in large crowds to minimize the risk of infection. People should limit eating out and shopping as well.

Eight of 31 active infections from Vietnam’s southern metropolis are linked to Buddha Bar in District 2’s Thao Dien expat area, making it a new Covid-19 hub in the city of 13 million.

Police are calling on everyone who attended the bar or transported customers to the venue to visit the nearest medical center for Covid-19 testing after a British pilot of Vietnamese Airlines was confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus on March 14, with many who came in close contact with him also infected.

In an unprecedented move, city authorities ordered all its restaurants and barber shops to close starting Tuesday while pool clubs, gyms and beauty salons with a capacity of 30 or more suspended operations as the Covid-19 fight enters the critical stage.

On March 15, the city had already ordered 180 dance clubs and bars, along with almost 500 karaoke and massage parlors, cinemas and gaming facilities, to close.

City Vice Chairman Le Thanh Liem said the local Covid-19 fight mirrored wartime. Therefore, all district authorities must ensure their troops are on duty 24/7.

Liem assigned localities to continue reviewing foreigners entering Vietnam before March 8 to request isolation at home.

Many of the active cases are Vietnamese nationals retuning from Europe and the U.S. and foreigners visiting from the same regions. Starting March 22, Vietnam had suspended entry for all foreign nationals, including those of Vietnamese origin and family members with visa waivers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has killed over 18,800 people as it spread to 196 countries and territories.

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