|A street near Thị Nghè Market area in Bình Thạnh District is empty on the first day of a 15-day lockdown in HCM City. VNS Photo Bồ Xuân Hiệp
HCM CITY — All businesses in HCM City that do not meet COVID-prevention measures need to shut down from Thursday amid the worsening pandemic situation.
Dương Anh Đức, vice chairman of the city People’s Committee, said one of the requirements is to arrange accommodation and food for workers.
Alternatively, workers must be able to live in dormitories or hotels with transportation arranged to the work site, he said.
The move follows a surge in the number of workers testing positive at high-tech zones, export processing zones, industrial parks, and high-tech zones, posing a high risk of transmission.
The infections include some 400 at 50 companies at the Tân Thuận Export Processing Zone in District 7 and 750 at the Saigon Hi-Tech Park in Thủ Đức City.
The virus has spread to most industrial zones, export processing zones and hi-tech zones.
They are required to perform COVID rapid tests on their workers every week.
The city administration has instructed the Department of Health to verify if businesses meet the safety requirements to remain open and set up 100 inspection teams for it.
The teams have checked all factories and companies in high-risk areas, and those considered medium- to high-risk must improve their COVID prevention measures or face closure.
Nguyễn Thành Phong, People’s Committee chairman, said the city plans to use 15 vacant land plots and 15 unused factories and warehouses to quarantine workers.
Dương Chí Nam, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Health Environment Management, said it is important to enhance prevention measures at businesses both inside and outside export processing zones and industrial parks, pointing out when a large number of workers gather there in an extremely high risk of serious outbreaks.
Such infection clusters could disrupt production and supply chains, seriously affecting the economy, he added.
HCM City has 1.6 million workers in factories, of whom 320,000 working in its 17 industrial parks and export processing zones and one high-tech zone.
Experts have warned that hospitals and factories and industrial zones are among the most important locations for COVID prevention measures.
City ensures smooth circulation of goods
Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, Minister of Transport Nguyễn Văn Thể said HCM City needs to work with provinces to ensure smooth transport of essential goods and sustain production and supply chains so that the public has access to food and other necessary items.
“Provinces must work with functional forces at HCM City’s entry checkpoints to ensure smooth circulation of goods during the lockdown.”
They need to create conditions to vaccinate and test drivers and other transport workers and use technology to minimise the time vehicles spend at the checkpoints, he said.
Provinces should consider mandatory medical isolation for drivers returning from epicentres like HCM City, he said.
Provincial transport departments have been told to instruct businesses to conduct COVID tests and monitor their employees’ health status in accordance with regulations, he said.
“Businesses and drivers who violate rules will be severely penalised.”
He has instructed the Directorate for Roads of Việt Nam to develop plans for transport activities whenever a city or province announces social distancing under Directive 15 or 16.
HCM City set up the pandemic checkpoints at its gateways last Friday after starting its 15-day lockdown to ensure drivers entering the city do not have COVID.
The number of cases in HCM City is expected to keep rising due to the extensive testing in high-risk areas such as export processing zones, industrial parks, hi-tech zones, and leased apartments.
Dr Nguyễn Hoài Nam, deputy director of the city Department of Health, said: “The number of cases per day has exceeded 1,000 for five consecutive days. But the number will decrease when testing is expanded to less risky areas.”
HCM City has had more than 18,200 cases since the outbreak began in late April. — VNS