Narrow lockdowns to smallest possible area: officials

By Nguyen Dong, Viet Tuan   September 22, 2021 | 05:12 pm PT
Narrow lockdowns to smallest possible area: officials
A residential area under lockdown on Vuon Chuoi Street, District 3, HCMC, July 30, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Localities nationwide should narrow lockdowns to the smallest possible area like a household, an apartment floor or an alley instead of entire neighborhoods, officials and experts say.

National Assembly deputy Pham Van Hoa said that because of the complicated development of the pandemic, anxious local authorities have cordoned off large areas every time a Covid-19 case was detected.

He said lockdowns have been imposed "in an extreme way," greatly affecting people's lives, production and business operations.

Instead of carrying out thorough epidemiological investigations and screening tests to determine the scope of the outbreak, "many places rushed to blockade entire villages, hamlets, communes, wards and apartment buildings," said Tran Dac Phu, a senior advisor with the Public Health Emergency Operations Center.

He said such responses not only wastes resources, lockdowns imposed on a large scale but weakly managed could actually increase the risk of infections.

He suggested that localities determine the scale of an outbreak accurately and apply the lockdown in accordance with infection risks.

In order to assess the level and scope, every time a Covid-19 case is detected, the local health sector must test the people involved and urgently investigate the epidemiology.

For example, if an infection is found in an apartment building, local authorities can temporarily blockade the entire building, but immediately after, conduct mass testing. If residents in the building are all negative, the scope of the lockdown must be narrowed down to only one floor where the patient lives. At the same time, the health sector must quickly investigate the epidemiology of all people who have come into contact with the case.

The same method should apply for an alley or a neighborhood, with a lockdown applied on the household that the infection is found or several houses nearby, instead of an entire ward, commune or village.

"The scope of the lockdown must be based on science. The virus cannot fly from house to house on its own, but spreads from sick people to healthy people through close contact," said Phu.

He cited an actual example to make his point.

In August, infections were detected in alleys 228 and 330 on Hanoi’s Nguyen Trai Street in Thanh Xuan Trung Ward, Thanh Xuan District. Only those two alleys were blockaded instead of the entire ward and until now, no infection has been detected outside the alleys.

"Small scale lockdowns make for easier, more effective management," Phu said.

Nguyen Anh Tri, Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, said that when a Covid-19 infection occurs at any place, it should only be considered an "infected point" instead of "infected area."

"Then, the scope of the blockaded area should be scaled down to a narrow area and only those related to the infected case should be tested," he said.

Nguyen Huy Nga, former head of the health ministry’s General Department of Preventive Medicine, said the people's understanding and awareness of disease prevention about Covid-19 has been improved over nearly two years.

At the same time, the capacity and experience of the health sector in testing and contact tracing have been consolidated while many localities have almost finished vaccinating all adults with the first Covid-19 jab.

"These are favorable conditions to end the habit of imposing widespread lockdowns," he said.

From his own experience in fighting the pandemic, Le Tu Gia Thanh, chairman of Hai Chau District in Da Nang, said that whenever a Covid-19 case is detected in a residential area, officials must be there immediately to work with the health sector to investigate epidemiology, assess risks, and identify the scale of infections, instead of "rigidly applying any principle."

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