COVID-19 Worries in Vietnam as Hospital Spawns New Round of Cases

Fifteen cities and provinces trace cases back to of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases.
2021-05-06
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COVID-19 Worries in Vietnam as Hospital Spawns New Round of Cases A Vietnamese health care worker checks the temperature of a woman filling out a health declaration form outside the Hanoi General Hospital before entering the medical facility in Hanoi, May 5, 2021.
AFP

A new round of coronavirus infections in Vietnam has spread to a swath of cities and provinces from a facility of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in the capital Hanoi, the country’s latest COVID-19 epicenter, according to state media reports.

As of Thursday, 52 confirmed cases originating from the hospital were found in 15 different cities and provinces, including Hanoi with nine cases, Hai Duong province with seven cases, and Vinh Phuc and Thai Nguyen provinces with five cases each, the reports said.

Other provinces and cities in Vietnam are continuing to trace the movement of people who were in the medical facility from April 14 to May 5, the day that the hospital was put into isolation.

Vietnam’s Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long has called the hospital’s second facility “a citadel” in protecting the health of people in northern Vietnam from the pandemic.

So far, the facility in the capital’s Dong Anh district has provided treatment for more than 1,000 COVID patients, including many critical ones. No deaths related to COVID-19 have been recorded at the medical center.

Thanh Long said other hospitals nationwide could learn from facility’s quarantine management practices and asked them to carefully and continuously screen their workers and people at high risk of infection to prevent the spread of COVID at health facilities.

Several confirmed virus cases were detected last week among people who had completed 14 days of mandatory quarantine and had received negative test results twice, according to local news reports.

There were at least four people — a Vietnamese returning from Japan, two Chinese, and one Indian — who tested positive after ending isolation periods, according to VietnamNet online newspaper. They had no interaction with each other while in quarantine. Upon their return home from the facilities, the four infected people traveled to many places.

“The recent developments of the pandemic in the world have been very complicated, and the new outbreaks are often stronger, more widespread, and more devastating than the previous ones,” Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long told state media on Wednesday.

“Given this situation, we are very concerned about the threats of the infection from outside,” he said.

Quarantine length increased

Vietnamese health experts said the carriers could have been infected at the quarantine facilities in hotels where they stayed, or they could have contracted the virus abroad and have had an incubation period of more than 14 days, or they could have become infected after leaving the centers, according to the publication.

But they acknowledged that errors in the testing process with the poor handling of samples, collection of unqualified samples, or errors with the testing equipment could have resulted in the negative results.

The experts also recommended that hotels in particular put in place stricter isolation measures to prevent infections.

The Health Ministry said that the supervision of positive cases after 14 days of mandatory quarantine recently had been loosened. But on Tuesday, the ministry sent an urgent notice to all Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention nationwide to hold people who had completed their 14-day isolation periods and had tested negative twice.

The following day, the Health Ministry announced that mandatory 21-day quarantine periods would go into effect the same day for people entering Vietnam from another country and those having been in close contact with others who tested positive for the virus.

On Thursday, the government recorded a total 3,090 COVID cases, including 68 new ones, and 35 total deaths since the pandemic began in the Southeast Asian nation in January 2020.

Authorities ordered students in 18 provinces and cities to stay at home after Vietnam confirmed 64 locally transmitted virus cases between April 29 and May 6, according to state media.

During the third wave of COVID in Vietnam earlier this year, students in 36 provinces and cities had to study online for two to three weeks depending on where they were located as a measure to contain the spread of the highly contagious respiratory virus.

‘An awareness issue’

Health officials say that the Vietnamese have been negligent when it comes to COVID prevention measures and have lowered their guard against the pandemic.

During the public holidays of April 30 and May 1, beaches from north to south were crowded with people, despite warnings of a possible new outbreak.

Dr. Dinh Duc Long expressed concerns over the new outbreak in Vietnam, saying that the situation is very tense with unpredictable developments.

“The risk is very high, [and] perhaps we are facing the highest risk since the pandemic started in 2020,” he said. “In the past, the pandemic was far away, but now many countries in the region have been heavily affected.”

He also said that it was dangerous that the Chinese people were still able to enter Vietnam illegally while the country is short of vaccines.

Dihn Duc Long cited high numbers of beachgoers on Vung Tau Beach southeast of Ho Chi Minh City during the recent public holiday, saying “The government and most people are determined to combat [the COVID outbreak], but some are very negligent and underestimate it.”

“It’s an awareness issue,” he added.

But ordinary citizens raised questions about the authorities’ handling of the latest outbreak.

Tuyet Hanh told RFA that she worries about Vietnam, a poor country of 95 million people, becoming like India which has recently seen record numbers of COVID cases and related deaths daily.

“If the government covers up information about the outbreak, we will fall into the same situation as India,” she said. “The death toll will skyrocket as Vietnam’s health system would be overloaded.”

A resident of Yen Bai province who gave his surname Minh, said that people have let down their defenses when it comes to protecting themselves from being infected with the virus.

“People have lowered their guard as the pandemic has lasting for too long,” he told RFA via Facebook Messenger. “People have been tired of it and felt the economic bite.”

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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