Vietnam pandemic trajectory remains unpredictable

By An Chi   October 20, 2021 | 10:15 pm PT
Experts have cautioned that with transmission sources still spreading in the community and vaccine coverage remaining low, the risk of more outbreaks remains high.

With the Covid-19 outbreak deemed under control in industrial hubs of Ho Chi Minh City and its neighbors of Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An, all hard hit localities by the latest wave, the government early this month assessed the pandemic situation as basically under control nationwide.

Accordingly it also issued regulations on safely coexisting with Covid-19.

However, in recent days, new clusters have been recorded in many parts of the country.

Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta has recorded an average of 200 cases per day while the delta’s Ca Mau Province has reported more than 700 cases since Oct. 1.

Most of the cases are linked to people returning from HCMC and its neighboring localities after social distancing measures were eased early October, allowing migrant workers to flock back to their hometowns.

Other delta provinces and northern localities including Hanoi, Bac Giang and Vinh Phuc have also reported infections being detected among returnees.

Meanwhile, other localities have reported new clusters with no clear source of transmissions, including the northern provinces of Nam Dinh and Phu Tho.

A man is tested for the new coronavirus on his way home in the Mekong Delta from HCMC, October 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

A man is tested for the new coronavirus on his way home in the Mekong Delta from HCMC, October 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Nguyen Huy Nga, a former head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, said as it has been decided that the entire nation is now reopened, relaxes social distancing rule, and coexists with the pandemic, "the detection of new cases in the community is inevitable.

"We'll find new cases whenever we carry out mass community testing," he said.

The source of transmission is still spreading silently in the community and more than 80 percent of new cases are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, resulting in their accidentally infecting others.

"The most important thing right now is to focus on cases that could turn severe, critical cases and on reducing mortalities," said Nga.

He said localities should keep their guard up as many of them now have a low vaccination rate.

For example, apart from Can Tho City with a rate of 11.6 percent, all remaining 12 localities in the Mekong Delta have a vaccination rate of less than 10 percent. The vaccination rate is less than 10 percent in many other localities in the north and central regions as well.

Tran Dac Phu, a senior advisor with the Public Health Emergency Operations Center, said people who are fully vaccinated can still get infected and transmit the virus to others, which means localities receiving returnees from Covid-19 hit areas should stay alert.

Between Oct. 1 and 9, 43 localities across the nation have received 180,000 people returning from HCMC and its neighboring localities, and so far, more than 1,000 have been confirmed with Covid-19, according to the Ministry of Health.

Nguyen Viet Hung, deputy head of the Hanoi Association for Infection Control, said the healthcare sector in each locality needs to focus on health monitoring, including monitoring people with symptoms similar to those of Covid-19, as also those coming from infected areas so that infections are detected early and the virus prevented from spreading further.

Do Van Dung, lecturer with the University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City, said areas that are now classified as low-risk but have a low vaccination rate continue to face the risk of outbreaks.

The biggest lesson that could be learned from the latest wave is to give vaccine priority to the elderly and develop a treatment system whereby all high-risk patients are hospitalized and taken care of, he said.

With people returning home from high-risk areas, many localities have decided to have all returnees isolated at centralized facilities and tested.

However, experts have advised that they avoid having too many people in one room to avoid the threat of cross infections. They have also said that in case their quarantine capacity is limited, local authorities should have returnees isolated at home and ensure they are strictly monitored.

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