Winter, Tet season may see Covid outbreaks, health minister warns

By Le Phuong   November 10, 2021 | 05:30 pm PT
Winter, Tet season may see Covid outbreaks, health minister warns
A restaurant is packed with people in HCMC, November 3, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van
The coming winter months, including the festive Tet season, may spark new Covid-19 outbreaks if people are not careful, the health minister warned Wednesday.

Addressing a National Assembly session, Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said that as Vietnam enters a "new normal" period the coronavirus is making a comeback in certain localities. Despite ongoing outbreaks, many people have been neglecting Covid-19 prevention measures like keeping distances, wearing masks or medical declarations, he added.

"Northern Vietnam is entering a cold period and Tet is near, meaning there will be many activities with large gatherings. We are worried about the risks of new Covid-19 outbreaks," Long said.

Temperatures in Hanoi have hovered at 15-25 degrees Celsius in recent days, and would get lower as winter approaches. Experts say the cold weather may help the novel coronavirus survive longer outside, presenting greater infection risks than in hotter months.

The Delta variant, much more infectious and sturdy than other strains, has become a formidable threat in the fight against Covid-19. Experts are concerned about the variant’s short incubation time and high capacity for infection within closed environments, especially as more people stay indoors during cold weather.

The variant has remained the dominant coronavirus strain in Vietnam over the past five months, Long noted, adding that he was worried about how the virus would spread in the cold weather of northern Vietnam. He urged localities to hasten vaccine coverage to reduce the number of infections, severe cases and deaths.

"Switching gears to adaptation means infections are inevitable, but the important thing is we should be able to manage the risks regarding severe cases and deaths," he said.

The health ministry would provide additional training to its personnel on the virus, including how to take better care of Covid-19 cases. It would also discuss with schools and hospitals the possibility of introducing Covid-19 as a subject and setting up research centers for infectious diseases like H5N1, SARS, MERS and Covid-19.

Long said Vietnam, like the rest of the world, has found it difficult to anticipate the trajectory of the pandemic. Most countries don’t have long-term predictions about the disease, and even the WHO has only warned that the coronavirus would not go away in 2022, and may become something similar to seasonal flu in 2023.

The health ministry has said it would work with the WHO on making predictions regarding Covid-19.

Vietnam has recorded over 991,000 Covid-19 cases and lost 22,765 lives. The country has vaccinated 62.8 million people with at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot, and 31.2 million people have received two doses.

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