HCMC should stop costly mass Covid testing: experts

By Trung Son   September 17, 2021 | 04:24 pm PT
HCMC should stop costly mass Covid testing: experts
Health workers collect samples for Covid-19 testing from a woman in HCMC's Binh Thanh District, August 23, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
HCMC should not continue with mass Covid-19 testing because it is too expensive. Instead, they should focus on testing those at risk and those with symptoms, experts say.

Do Van Dung, head of the community health department of the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said Friday that the city has managed to vaccinate high-risk populations and roll out effective Covid-19 care models, which have helped reduce death rates dramatically.

In the coming days, the city needs to change its strategy so threats can be contained in the long run because the novel coronavirus is here to stay and having to live with it is inevitable, he said.

"If we decide to fight one final battle, we could put in all that we have. If not, we must calculate how to fight effectively, meaning conserving our resources to avoid attrition," said Dung, adding that squashing an entire wave doesn't mean another wave won't come.

"When that happens, can the city continue to trace back contacts, do mass testing and lock itself down again?"

Vietnam could definitely vanquish the coronavirus, but not all at once and not without the cooperation of other countries, Dung said.

As such, the city should stop mass testing and contact tracing as they are too costly, and instead switch to testing people at risk of infections and people already showing symptoms, he suggested.

Tran Diep Tuan, head of the board of the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said the city needs to consider how to deal with coronavirus cases once mass testing is completed, especially as the zero-Covid goal is no longer attainable.

While coronavirus cases can be isolated from the community and moved elsewhere, this method would require constant contact tracing as a test result is only valid for three days. As such, the city needs to decide that mass testing is not necessary, and resources should be focused on Covid-19 vaccination, especially for the elderly, Tuan said.

Regarding the city reopening and striving for economic recovery, Dung said it should make peace with the fact that it needs to live with the virus and plan to reopen the economy gradually.

"Reopening needs to account for the prioritization of different services and production. If a business detects a coronavirus case, only necessary measures should be used to contain the local outbreak instead of forcing a total shutdown," Dung said.

Vu Thanh Tu Anh, director of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, said reopening is essential because of the adverse impacts of the pandemic on the city's economy. Businesses can only hold out for so long, and poor people even less so. The city's budget also suffers as a result, he noted.

Nguyen Van Nen, secretary of the municipal Party Committee, said HCMC’s vaccination rate is already quite high and the people have been willing to share the burden with the city and with each another in tackling the pandemic.

But every society and economy has its own threshold, and if the pandemic persists for too long, consequences would follow. Therefore, the city has devised its own strategies to prepare for a "new normal," with due consideration given to healthcare, social security, education and other aspects, Nen said.

The southern metropolis, epicenter of the fourth coronavirus wave, has recorded 326,795 local Covid-19 cases and 12,802 deaths in the new wave since late April.

Even as the strategy shifts to adapting to the virus’ persistent existence, municipal authorities have announced they would conduct mass testing throughout the city, especially in high-risk areas, until the end of the month.

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