Outbreaks likely if HCMC drops guard in the 'new normal'

By Thu Anh, Le Cam   October 5, 2021 | 06:00 am PT
Outbreaks likely if HCMC drops guard in the 'new normal'
People are out on the street in HCMC's District 1, October 3, 2021 as the city has entered the 'new normal' phase. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Kiet
HCMC could suffer another Covid-19 outbreak if fully vaccinated people and Covid-19 recoveries do not follow pandemic prevention measures, experts warn.

HCMC, the epicenter of Vietnam’s latest Covid-19 outbreak, entered its "new normal" phase on Oct.1, resuming almost all socio-economic activities after four months of various levels of social distancing.

Pham Duc Hai, deputy head of the municipal Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, said a majority of the city people were "very excited" and the "bustling atmosphere" has returned to the city.

However, many people are not following the pandemic prevention protocols like wearing masks, not forming crowds and maintaining a safe distance from each other.

Meanwhile, street vendors have resumed operations even though they have not been allowed to do so, Hai said.

There also have been cases where people who are not yet allowed to be on the streets have violated the rules, he said at a Monday meeting.

At present, only Covid-19 recoveries and those who have got at least one vaccine dose 14 days earlier are allowed to be out and about.

Le Quoc Hung, head of the Tropical Diseases Department at the city’s Cho Ray Hospital, a major medical facility in southern Vietnam, said the fact that people have been gathering at street markets and even supermarkets in the past few days is very worrying for the health sector.

HCMC still has 4-5 percent of people over 18 yet to receive any vaccine shot.

A person who has received a vaccine dose is not immune to the virus and will still transfer it to others and therefore, gathering in crowds and failing to comply with prevention protocols may disrupt all anti-pandemic progress the city has made until today, Hung said.

The fact that the city has partially opened up as part of safely adapting to the novel coronavirus does not mean people should rush to the streets and immediately return to normal, he stressed.

For now, everyone should strictly follow the rules on pandemic prevention and one of the important factors is keeping a suitable distance from one another, Hung said.

In several states in the U.S. where the vaccination rate has crossed 70 percent, infections have still increased after people failed to comply with Covid-19 prevention measures, he added.

Hung suggested that the city not allow street markets to operate for now because this type of business is very hard to manage. Traditional markets should only sell essential products, he said.

He also said that in the meantime, the city should wait for the vaccination rate to rise and the pandemic situation to be better controlled before opening up any further.

"All the solutions applied to ease social distancing aim to serve the economic development. Therefore, everyone should abide by the Health Ministry's guidance on Covid-19 prevention to both develop the economy and control the pandemic so as to avoid the situation in which the next outbreak is stronger than the previous one."

Nguyen Minh Tien, deputy director of the HCMC Children's Hospital, said supermarkets pose a high risk once somebody is infected as they are completely closed spaces, use air conditioners, and sell various types of products that attract many customers.

Therefore, he suggested that only those that have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days or recovered from Covid-19 for as many days should visit supermarkets.

In order to protect themselves, their families and the public at large, people visiting supermarkets at this time must wear masks and keep their distance, Tien said.

Meanwhile, supermarkets need to closely monitor their employees and customers, allowing only those that have been vaccinated to work and shop.

He also recommended that supermarkets disinfect their facilities at least twice a day, especially elevators and the cashier counters, and every supervisor should keep reminding others to comply with the safety rules.

Tien also warned parents against taking their children out and visiting places like supermarkets, shopping malls or museums at this time because they have not been vaccinated and the city is yet to achieve herd immunity.

He also reminded parents to carefully disinfect themselves after returning home to avoid any possible risk of infecting their children.

In the ongoing Covid-19 wave that hit Vietnam late April, HCMC has recorded nearly 401,500 infections, accounting for almost half of the national tally, and spent more than 100 days under various levels of social distancing from late May to Sept. 30.

To date, the city has lost 15,213 people to the pandemic.

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