Management failures expose nation to higher Covid-19 outbreak risks

By Nguyen Quy, Thu Anh   August 28, 2020 | 02:35 am PT
Management failures expose nation to higher Covid-19 outbreak risks
South Korean experts wait around a luggage carousel at Cat Bi International Airport in Hai Phong City, northern Vietnam, July 2, 2020. Photo courtesy of An Ninh Hai Phong newspaper.
Incomplete removal of infections at their source, lax border control and carelessness of quarantine facilities have exposed Vietnam to higher risks of further Covid-19 outbreaks.

This assessment was mentioned by acting Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long at an online government meeting Thursday.

While saying that "the outbreak in Da Nang, Quang Nam, Hai Duong and other localities is basically under control," Long stressed that the country would continue to see more domestic infection cases and warned of the possibility of another outbreak if the public was not careful.

He said a major reason for Vietnam’s vulnerability to another outbreak was the failure to stop infections at the source during the second Covid-19 wave that hit the country starting July 25. The country has recorded 548 community transmissions since, most of them linked to Da Nang, the country’s Covid-19 epicenter at the moment.

The acting minister also noted that 60 percent of infected patients hadn’t shown any symptoms before their diagnosis, indicating that the "pathogen still exists and will continue to spread, which might cause a new outbreak some time."

He also warned that the pandemic may spread at a rapid pace among the community during the winter-spring season, given the humid weather.

Another major reason that poses high risk of community transmission is the lack of strict management of incoming foreign experts and illegal immigrants, Long said.

Vietnam has granted special permission to 10,000 foreign experts to enter the country for work, mainly Chinese and South Korean nationals, with others from Japan, Russia and Europe. However, many businesses have taken advantage of the priority immigration policy to bring unqualified foreigners into the country and failed to ensure their 14-day quarantine on arrival as mandated by the ministry, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said at the meeting: "This is a serious matter." He asked relevant ministries to carefully review the process and procedures for foreign experts to enter Vietnam.

"Local authorities must be strictly held responsible for the isolation of foreign experts in their areas, and they must do a very good job," Dam said.

Vietnam stopped entry for foreign nationals on March 22 and suspended international flights on March 25, and only allows Vietnamese nationals and foreigners who have diplomatic or official passports or are experts or high-skilled workers.

The government also requires foreign experts coming to Vietnam for work to get Covid-19 tests done before they arrive and to be quarantined on arrival for 14 days.

Illegal immigrants are also a potential risk, officials said. A rising number of Chinese illegal immigrants sneaking into Vietnam to gamble or work have been caught recently.

Among the illegal Chinese caught so far, one has tested positive in HCMC. He is being treated at Cu Chi field hospital.

Long also highlighted the carelessness and neglect at centralized quarantine facilities as a factor in increasing the risks of a new outbreak of the coronavirus, citing the recent incident in Hai Duong Province as an example.

Three men and a woman repatriated from Russia had been quarantined for 14 days at a military facility in the northern province’s Chi Linh Town. All three had been tested for the virus once and the results were negative.

They were allowed to leave the quarantine camp and go home on August 25 even before they had received results of the second test. The results returned positive on the same day as they left, and a scramble has ensued to trace all the people who’d come into contact with them.

Long ordered that quarantined people waiting for results of the second tests are not allowed to leave. He also stressed that those allowed to return home after testing negative for the virus twice have to be closely monitored for another 14 days.

Of Vietnam’s 1,036 Covid-19 cases so far, 367 are active, 30 people have died and the rest have recovered.

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