Not time yet to declare end of Covid-19: health ministry

By Viet Tuan   June 27, 2022 | 05:29 am PT
Not time yet to declare end of Covid-19: health ministry
A 12-year-old boy gets Covid-19 vaccine in Hanoi on April 16, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu
The Health Ministry says it is not time yet for Vietnam to declare the end of Covid-19 because new virus variants could appear even though the situation has stabilized somewhat.

The ministry said it is collecting opinions from other ministries and departments on a draft report on measures to combat Covid-19 in the "new normal" situation for submission to the government.

The latest assessment comes more than two months after the PM had asked the health ministry to work on declaring Covid-19 an endemic.

The ministry said that from March until now, the number of new Covid-19 cases and deaths has "stably decreased," and the number officially registered with the national database has stayed at fewer than 1,000 cases each day in recent times while the death rate has fallen to 0.06 percent of the total number of infections.

Vietnam has covered almost 80 percent of its 96-million population with two vaccine doses; and the group of those from five years old are to receive the second doses within June.

Despite this, the ministry said it was not the right time for Vietnam to consider Covid-19 endemic because the novel coronavirus is constantly changing and it is difficult to determine the extent of danger and degree of aggravation and death.

There may be new variants that reduce the effectiveness of vaccines or immunity, which would lead to an increase in cases of severe symptoms or deaths, especially among vulnerable groups.

In case a new, more dangerous variant appears, the risk will be high for a new outbreak on a large scale that exceeds the capacity of the health system.

If it was no longer considered a pandemic, Covid-19 patients would stop receiving free treatment, especially those in remote areas with difficult access to medical services. Besides, medical workers participating in the fight against Covid-19 would not be entitled to special allowances.

Furthermore, there would be no specific mechanism for vaccines to be used in an emergency. The mobilization of people and businesses to fight the disease will not be given due attention and people will be subjected to greater danger of contracting it.

The ministry said maintaining the status of Covid-19 as a pandemic in Vietnam will ensure full attention of the entire political system in fighting it as well as allocation of adequate funds, allowing the country to be better prepared for the possibility of new and more dangerous variants.

It said Vietnam can consider announcing the end of Covid-19 "when the World Health Organization declares the end of the global pandemic status."

Vietnam announced Covid-19 a nationwide pandemic on Apr. 1, 2020.

The ministry also proposed keeping Covid-19 in Group A, which comprises dangerous infectious diseases with the ability to spread quickly and widely, and have a high mortality rate, or an unknown causative agent.

Some others in this group include influenza A - H5N1, plague, smallpox, dengue fever, and cholera.

In many countries, the pandemic situation was still complicated and it was necessary to be prepared for adverse eventualities, the ministry maintained.

Besides, many people have suffered declining health status after contracting Covid-19 and adequate research has not been done on the issue until now, it asserted.

In March, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh had requested the Health Ministry to analyze and evaluate on a nationwide level the degree of protection that antibodies provide against the coronavirus.

Vietnam will move towards "normalizing" the Covid-19 pandemic and considering it an endemic disease, he had said at a cabinet meeting.

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