Proactive prevention to safeguard Vietnam against Cambodia Covid-19 outbreak: expert

By Le Nga   April 20, 2021 | 01:04 am PT
Proactive prevention to safeguard Vietnam against Cambodia Covid-19 outbreak: expert
A station for health declaration in Ha Tien Town of Kien Giang Province for people returning from Cambodia. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Phuong.
The Health Ministry has geared up the southern border against infection threats from Cambodia, urging local provinces to not let their guard down.

With timely actions to set up a field hospital and raise testing capacity as well as sending medic forces to support Kien Giang Province, the Ministry of Health has proved its proactivity, said Tran Dac Phu, senior advisor to the ministry's public health emergency operations center.

"To fight the pandemic, we need to be one step ahead and avoid staying passive," Phu told VnExpress on Tuesday.

A delegation led by Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long has arrived in Kien Giang to help the province set up a field hospital in its beach town of Ha Tien by making use of a cultural center there.

A team of 13 doctors and nurses from Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, a top public hospital in southern Vietnam, has also been sent to Kien Giang, with more medics expected to arrive in future.

The ministry has also equipped the province with two real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines, currently the most trusted method in the world to determine new coronavirus infection, to raise local testing capacity, currently at only 600 samples per day.

Kien Giang shares a border of 56 kilometers (34.8 miles) and 62,000 square kilometers of sea area with Cambodia.

Daily, thousands of fishing vessels and boats trading oil and seafood operate across this maritime area, with managing entry a hard task, a provincial representative said at a meeting last week.

Since Feb. 20 to date, around 1,300 people have entered Vietnam via Ha Tien from Cambodia, 13 illegally, according to official ministry data.

With the ongoing outbreak in Cambodia, not only Kien Giang but the entire border area, including Mekong Delta provinces, are now "major hotspots" at high risk of possible Covid-19 outbreaks, Minister Long said last week.

Vietnam's border with Cambodia spans 1,137 kilometers, including the four Mekong Delta provinces An Giang, Dong Thap, Kien Giang and Long An. Other Vietnamese provinces bordering Cambodia are Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh near HCMC, and Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, and Dak Nong in the Central Highlands.

Now with Health Ministry preparation, Phu said the risk of infection would be reduced, adding local authorities, including those in Kien Giang, should not let their guard down anytime soon.

Cambodia reported a record 618 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, in a spike in infections following an outbreak first detected in late February. The country recorded 431 new cases on Tuesday.

Phnom Penh and a satellite district of the capital entered lockdown Thursday last week to curb the spread of infections. Under the lockdown, most people are banned from leaving home for two weeks except to go to work, buy food or for medical treatment.

"Yet even when the outbreak is large outside the border, we can still hold the defensive line if we guarantee prevention."

If all border guards, police officers, and quarantine staff fulfill their tasks, the risk will be minimized.

"If these steps are followed, an outbreak in Vietnam would be easily contained," he said.

As per Vietnamese protocol, all those entering the nation from abroad must be quarantined for 14 days, during which they will be tested at least twice.

Illegal entrants are those evading checkpoints to avoid quarantine.

For almost a month now, Vietnam has not recorded any community transmission but the number of imported cases has been increasing gradually, with many returnees from Cambodia.

So far, 1,570 of Vietnam's 2,791 Covid-29 cases have been local transmissions.

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