Coronavirus can still be in the community in Vietnam: Deputy PM

prevention, COVID-19, Vu Duc Dam, pathogen

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam on Tuesday applauded Vietnam’s achievements in its fight against COVID-19 while also stressing a high likelihood of future pathogen emergence in the country.

Dam’s statements were made during his chairmanship of a meeting of the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control.

During the meeting, Nguyen Dac Vinh, deputy chief of the Party Central Committee's Office, pointed out that early detection is key to successful epidemic prevention efforts, as seen from the quelling of recent outbreaks at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City and in Hai Phong at the end of January.

Vinh also emphasized the importance of tactical medical screenings to identify transmission sources and contain the pathogen. 

He noted that the Ministry of Health should reflect on its contact tracing programs and identify optimal isolation plans in order to inform efforts in other provinces.

The upcoming COVID-19 inoculation plan should be rolled out in sync with other epidemic prevention efforts, he added.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM Dam pointed out that Vietnam ranked 173rd in the world in terms of patient tallies and 213th on the ratio of COVID-19 cases to population, an impressive achievement considering the relatively low cost that the country spent on COVID-19 prevention.

“With all due humility, it can be said that Vietnam is ranked one of the most successful countries in the world when it comes to COVID-19 prevention," he said.

"For that reason, we must stay loyal to the principles and strategies that were employed in the early days.”

According to Dam, those strategies involve five steps: prevention, detection, isolation, eradication, and treatment, all of which have been maintained through different phases of the epidemic.

Large-scale testing

Speaking at the conference, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son asked that Hai Duong Province, the country’s current COVID-19 epicenter, continue its large-scale COVID-19 testing for workers in industrial zones, which involves determining optimal sample sizes and the demographic for medical screening.

Do Xuan Tuyen, another Deputy Minister of Health, also noted that testing in Hai Duong should only be rolled out at factories at high risk of transmission instead of being mandated at all plants.

Eradication out of reach

After hearing the reports of attending officials, Deputy Prime Minister Dam commended Hai Duong’s contribution to the nationwide effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Since the outbreak in the province, only three cases of transmission have been detected outside the isolated areas or quarantine wards, all of whom completed contact tracing to help curb further transmission.

The deputy PM has asked Hai Duong to keep up contact tracing and mass medical screenings in the community as instructed by the Ministry of Health.

“Currently, a real-time PCR test costs as much as two jabs," Dam stated.

“A circumstance where factories must test all of their workers before they are allowed to resume operations should be avoided, as it is not only costly but also enkindles skepticism about the test results.”

Additionally, busy locations such as beverage stalls near industrial parks, hospitals, bus stations, and wet markets should be closely monitored.

Dam also underlined the necessity of Hai Duong’s vigilant stance against the epidemic even after the isolation mandate is lifted, as Vietnam’s dense population, long border, and demand for foreign experts will continue underpin risks of future outbreaks.

“No one can be sure that Vietnam is completely freed from the pathogen," Dam warned.

"We must stay vigilant."

A total of 820 local cases have been detected in 13 provinces and cities since since January 28, when the Ministry of Health confirmed the first community-based infections after Vietnam had gone almost two months without local transmission.

The current outbreak is considered the most serious wave to have struck Vietnam after the first-ever COVID-19 patient was recorded in the country on January 23, 2020.

Hai Duong Province is the hardest-hit locale, with 636 cases logged in this round of infections.

The national tally stood at 2,412 coronavirus cases, including 1,513 domestic infections, as of Wednesday night, with 1,790 recoveries and 35 virus-related deaths, according to the Ministry of Health’s data.

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