Saigon leader warns against negligence in Covid-19 fight: City 'would fall like Italy'

By Huu Cong, Manh Tung   March 19, 2020 | 10:08 pm PT
Saigon leader warns against negligence in Covid-19 fight: City 'would fall like Italy'
A man has his temperature checked at Saigon's Tan Son Nhat Airport, March 17, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
If Saigon is not careful, the Covid-19 outbreak could spiral out of control like in Italy, the city chairman said at a meeting Thursday.

Every commune, ward and district must devise plans to combat the disease, Nguyen Thanh Phong told officials from the Steering Committee for Prevention and Control of Covid-19.

He cited a newspaper article saying how Italy's Papa Giovanni hospital had to earmark 400 of its 950 beds for Covid-19 patients, three out of the hospital’s four top officials were infected with the disease, there were not enough ambulances to respond to calls, and untrained medical workers were infected by contaminated vehicles.

Italy has had over 41,000 cases and over 3,400 deaths as of Thursday night, surpassing China's death toll of over 3,200, where the novel coronavirus was first detected.

"What happened in Italy serves as a warning that our agencies must not be careless," Phong said.

"If we remain passive, Saigon would fall like Italy did."

The city's Tan Son Nhat Airport could receive about 17,000 people in the next 10 days, and so beds must be readied for quarantine zones, he said.

"Or else we could lose control immediately. We need to devise a concrete plan to fight the disease, taking into account the number of beds, the number of arrivals and logistical services."

Medical students and retired doctors and nurses should also be enlisted to fight the disease, he added.

Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the city Department of Health, said the next two weeks would be decisive for Vietnam in the epidemic fight, reiterating people should not go out unnecessarily.

While the city could manage around 24,000 beds, it has also considered transferring all non-Covid-19 patients at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases to other medical facilities for treatment, earmarking the entire hospital for Covid-19 patients, he said.

"However, that option is a last resort."

The Department of Industry and Trade has been instructed to work with businesses to provide food for quarantined people if the outbreak worsens.

Saigon has had 17 confirmed cases, of whom three recovered and were discharged last month.

Around 3,000 people are quarantined as of Thursday.

Vietnam has had 85 cases, of whom 68 are undergoing treatment and the remaining 17 have recovered.

The Covid-19 pandemic has spread to 179 countries and territories, claiming over 10,000 lives.

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