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Yes, we should, no we shouldn't: Covid-19 protocol divisions arise

By Staff reporters   March 11, 2022 | 05:34 pm PT
Yes, we should, no we shouldn't: Covid-19 protocol divisions arise
A health worker disinfects corridors at a school in Hanoi, standing next to a board of Covid prevention protocol, January 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Officials and experts are divided in their opinions on the advisability of requiring social distancing and health declarations with some in favor and others against.

At a Ho Chi Minh City's meeting Wednesday, Nguyen Van Nen, secretary of the city's Party Committee, said it was no longer necessary to request social distancing and avoidance of mass gatherings.

"Given the current situation, wearing a mask and disinfecting hands are the only feasible options," he said.

In August 2020, the Ministry of Health issued a protocol in order to contain the spread of Covid, warning people to wear masks, disinfect their hands frequently, keep a safe distance from each other, avoid crowds and complete health declarations.

Since then, given the "complicated" developments of the pandemic, the protocol has become a mandate and those who fail to follow it are seen as law breakers to be dealt with accordingly.

But, said Nen: "The situation has changed and if we keep applying the same protocol without making any adjustments, it would create obstacles for people."

Truong Huu Khanh, an epidemiologist and a member of the National Board for Vaccine Evaluation, also said the ministry’s protocol should now be changed because the city has already reopened and almost all activities have resumed.

Wearing masks and disinfecting hands are still significant but the rules on keeping distance and avoiding gatherings should be reconsidered, he said.

"It is now almost impossible for companies to ask its employees to keep a distance of two meters from each other.

"The health declaration is also no longer necessary because tracking related cases is no longer important, given that the number of infections in the community is very large and most people have been vaccinated," he added.

Tran Van Ngoc, President of the HCMC Respiratory Association, shared the same view, saying the requirement for health declaration was no longer relevant and should be abolished.

Currently, it is difficult for people to know when they have been exposed to a Covid-19 patient because the health sector no longer carries out tracing of related cases and locating infected areas.

Therefore, only masks and hand sanitization are necessary for now, Ngoc said.

Tran Van Phuc, a doctor at Hanoi’s Saint Paul's Hospital, also said it was "unnecessary" now to follow all the protocols.

Flexible adjustments should be made in the direction of raising people's awareness so that each person knows how to protect himself/herself from Covid-19, he said.

However, he warned that in the current context of the Omicron variant spreading widely in the community, certain preventive measures still need to be maintained to avoid overload of the healthcare system.

What WHO said

Do Van Dung, head of the Public Health Department at Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said the Health Ministry had developed the Covid-19 prevention protocols based on recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO has maintained those recommendations until now, especially in the context of the Omicron strain remaining dominant.

"Each measure has a small effect, but when combined together, they will limit the spread of the disease, so it'll be better to implement as many recommendations as possible."

"If people wear masks but stand too close together, the risk of getting infected remains high," he said.

On the health declaration, Dung said the protocol was "very important" as it allowed people to identify infections in the community.

Thanks to the health declaration, Covid-19 patients can be kept away from crowded places such as schools, offices and supermarkets, which would help avoid the risk of spreading the disease further, he added.

The declaration results also help the healthcare sector to facilitate epidemiological surveillance, promptly detect an "upward epidemic wave" in an objective manner, and take appropriate response measures when needed.

Dung proposed that at the current stage, people should still follow all prevention protocols and about six months from now, if there is no serious mutation and the pandemic situation stabilizes, the government can allow people to decide whether or not to follow the protocols on their own.

Another epidemiologist who wished to remain anonymous said that it was still too early to change any pandemic prevention measures, especially in the current context of the number of infections increasing quickly in the community.

"The protective effects of the vaccine are not high, the disease has no specific treatment and the number of reinfection cases is increasing. Applying all Covid-19 prevention protocols is still essential to protect the community," the expert said.

Official data from the Ministry of Health shows that in the past seven days, the number of confirmed daily cases has jumped by 50 percent compared to the previous week, to around 200,000.

 
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