Health ministry warns of rising Covid infections during Tet holiday

By Le Nga   January 7, 2023 | 05:31 am PT
Health ministry warns of rising Covid infections during Tet holiday
Foreign tourists on Ta Hien Street in Hanoi on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
The surge in travel during the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday and relaxed travel policies of some countries could result in more Covid-19 infections, the Ministry of Health warned.

"With the new reopening policies of countries in the region, the number of Covid-19 cases from abroad will increase in the coming weeks, especially during the Tet holiday," said Nguyen Luong Tam, deputy director of the General Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health.

Starting Sunday, China will reopen its border and lift mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers after nearly three years of pursuing zero-Covid policy.

Tam said immunity, built up either via vaccination or infection, is not stable and decreases over time while the virus constantly mutates with new strains and potential subvariants capable of spreading quickly and avoiding immunity.

"The Covid situation will be unstable and unpredictable," he added.

Tam also said the growing travel demand during the Tet break, which will last from January 20-26, also poses a high risk of spreading the virus, especially with the Omicron subvariant named XBB, believed to be highly contagious and capable of evading immune responses. The subvariant has been detected in Ho Chi Minh City and Tay Ninh Province that borders Cambodia.

Tet, Vietnam’s biggest and most important holiday, sees millions of people at home and abroad flock to their hometowns for family reunions.

Tam called on people to take personal preventive measures such as wearing masks in public places, washing their hands frequently and ensuring full vaccination.

To prevent another potential Covid-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Health said it planned to respond by closely monitoring foreign arrivals at border gates, especially those coming from pandemic-hit areas or places where new and dangerous Covid strains appear.

The ministry also recommended localities continue to vaccinate against Covid for high-risk groups and children from 5 to under 12 years old, especially in major cities and popular tourist destinations flooded with a high number of international visitors.

By January 6, Vietnam had 11.5 million infections.

In November and December 2022, there were an average of 360 new cases per day. In the early days of 2023, just over 50 cases were recorded each day.

Similarly, the number of severe cases has been on a downward trend, from 30 cases per week in the last week of December 2022 to 15 cases in the first week of January.

The number of deaths in the last two months was 22.

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