Three prerequisites to safely reopen HCMC: Deputy PM

By Huu Cong   September 11, 2021 | 04:48 am PT
Three prerequisites to safely reopen HCMC: Deputy PM
A health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine shot in HCMC's Thu Duc City, June 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
High vaccination rates, drug supply and behavioral changes among the populace are the basis for a gradual reopening of HCMC, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said.

Ho Chi Minh City, epicenter of the fourth coronavirus wave, has recorded nearly 300,000 local Covid-19 cases in the new wave since late April, accounting for around half of all cases in the country.

The southern metropolis has undergone over 100 days under numerous social distancing orders, with the latest expected to be extended until Sept. 15.

"The sooner we open, the sooner the people would have salaries and troubles would subside," Dam told a meeting with HCMC officials Friday.

Coronavirus control measures in the city have produced certain signs of success. Within the first week of September, the average number of deaths recorded a day was 237, a drop of 38 from the previous week. Around 80 percent of HCMC’s adult population have also received at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot, paving the way for possibly achieving herd immunity.

"We should still be on guard in general, but once vaccines and drugs become available, reopening is certain," said Dam.

He added there were three things that would allow HCMC to reopen: over 80 percent of the adult population vaccinated, drugs and oxygen tanks available, and behavioral changes among citizens, with masks and safe distances mandatory.

Nguyen Van Nen, secretary of the municipal Party Committee, conceded that complete lockdowns would be impossible to continue indefinitely, and that the coronavirus was here to stay.


Vaccination remains the keystone of HCMC’s plan to reopen. In fact, it has gradually picked up its vaccination speed, from a few thousand shots per day to up to 300,000. Even during lockdowns and at night, people could still get vaccinated, whether by travelling to vaccination sites or via mobile vaccination units.

Over seven million people in the city have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot, with over 810,000 having been fully vaccinated so far.

Duong Anh Duc, deputy chairman of the municipal People's Committee, said the city would need to vaccinate the entire population ahead of reopening, especially as authorities consider applying "vaccine green passes."

Proposed "vaccine green passes" should be allocated to fully vaccinated individuals and those who have recovered from Covid-19, according to the municipal Department of Health.

HCMC now aims to vaccinate all its 7.2 million adult population with at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot by Sept. 15.

Regarding medical capacity, the city has deployed over 400 mobile medical stations and helped over 80,000 Covid-19 patients to self-isolate at home. Nguyen Huu Hung, deputy director of the municipal health department, said around 180,000 medicine packages to treat Covid-19 have been distributed to local authorities, and that tens of thousands of Covid-19 patients being treated at home have received them.

The department has already requested the People's Committee to provide around 200,000 more medicine bags as a precaution in case the pandemic worsens, Hung added.

Dang Phu Thanh, deputy director of the municipal Department of Construction, said the number of beds equipped with oxygen support systems is around 11,500, with the department to install another 3,500 in future.

Around 114 oxygen tanks have also been installed, along with around 9,500 oxygen canisters distributed to medical facilities across the city.

"The city would provide another 13,000 canisters in future," Thanh said.

Despite signs of success, Nen said there's still a long way to go in the coronavirus fight, considering the global shortage of Covid-19 vaccines and existing outbreaks in major economic hubs across southern regions.

"As this city runs mostly on services (over 80 percent), even just closing up a bit would mean someone would need social benefits and aid. A large segment of the population don't even have a rice cooker at home; they just go to work, eat at a restaurant and come home to sleep. If a node in the service chain got shutdown, the entire chain suffers," Nen said.

"But an improper, mismanaged reopening process would mean trouble. We must not be hasty, and must do things step by step."

"Medicine package for Covid-19 patients" campaign aims to support patients self-isolating at home. Each donation worth VND380,000 ($16.65) can help buy medicine for one patient. For more information regarding donation methods, kindly refer to this link.

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