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HCMC to conduct large-scale Covid-19 testing

By Le Phuong   May 30, 2021 | 05:24 am PT
HCMC to conduct large-scale Covid-19 testing
People in Go Vap District, HCMC, wait to have their samples taken for Covid-19 tests, May 29, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van.
HCMC is planning a mass testing program on large scale, expecting to collect 100,000 samples per day from across the city.

Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong mentioned the plan at a Sunday emergency meeting on the Covid-19 crisis. In the immediate future, the health sector will focus on sampling all members of the Revival Ekklesia Mission, a Christian congregation, and people who participated the National Assembly and People's Council votes on Sunday last week. All workers at 17 export processing zones, industrial parks and high-tech zones wherein 1,500 companies are operating with 280,000 workers and 3,000 experts will also be tested in the short-term.

Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the HCMC Department of Health, said Saturday that the city has taken samples of people in vicinity of Covid-hit Christian mission in Go Vap District.

He said the city plans to activate a daily testing capacity of about 100,000 samples, twice the current capacity of 50,000, to quickly detect cases and control the spread of the virus. The functional forces will focus on collecting samples during the day, only doing it at night if particular situations demand it.

HCMC is home to around 13 million people including migrants.

The city currently has more than 400 sampling teams across the city, including staff from the Center for Disease Control, health centers and stations, staff from hospitals and others. The city's Department of Health will mobilize about 400 additional students from medical universities to carry out rapid mass testing.

Nguyen Tri Dung, director of the HCMC Center for Disease Control, said that in the past few days, medical staff have focused on taking samples in isolated areas to find infected and suspected cases. After completing sample collection in these areas, the health sector will expand it to all other areas. The sampling plan for testing the entire population will be based on risk group classification, he said.

The city is currently collecting samples of residents in wards 3, 5, 9, 14 and 15 of Go Vap District to assess the risk. Go Vap, where the headquarters of the Christian mission is situated, has recorded dozens of infections in the last four days.

In order to support the health sector in Go Vap urgently collect samples on a large scale, many units are providing assistance including Go Vap District Medical Center and the Binh Dan and Nguyen Tri Phuong hospitals.

In the past four days, the city has recorded a total of 149 infections in two Covid-19 clusters with the source of infection yet to be established. In particular, the chain related to the religious mission is the largest ever with 142 cases, while that of a couple in Tan Phu District has so far recorded seven cases.

According to initial assessments, these two clusters may be linked.

Until now, contact tracing has found more than 62,000 people who have have had close or indirect contact with the patients, with 47 isolated areas.

The HCMC Center for Disease Control is urging people who have visited the Revival Ekklesia Mission in Go Vap to proactively contact local healthcare facilities to report, even if there are no symptoms. People need to be vigilant, but not panic, the center has stressed. When there are Covid-19 symptoms - fever, cough, difficulty breathing and loss of taste and smell – suspect cases should travel by private vehicles to get immediate medical examination and be truthful in making medical declarations.

According to Binh, the result of gene sequencing of patients in both clusters showing infections with the Indian Covid-19 variant is worrying.

This variant is assessed as having the ability to infect 1.7 times faster than other Covid-19 strains, and can spread quickly in the air in a closed environment.

The cluster in Go Vap District spread quickly because many people gathered in small rooms of about 50 square meter and did not wear face masks.

"Currently, HCMC's hospitals are still meeting the treatment capacity," Binh said.

HCMC has five hospitals specializing in Covid-19 treatment: Cho Ray, Cu Chi, Can Gio, HCMC Children's Hospital and HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases, with a total of 970 beds.

Binh said the city has envisaged a scenario of having to deal with 5,000 Covid-19 cases, for which it would set up more field hospitals.

There are around 4,000 people quarantined in the city at the moment.

*The title has been changed. The original title "HCMC to test 13 million population for Covid-19" could be misleading.

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