People carrying goods out of the EMart Gò Vấp Supermarket in HCM City on Saturday morning. A large number of the city's residents have rushed to supermarkets and markets to stock up on food and essentials ahead of the imminent two weeks of enhanced social distancing. — VNA/VNS Photo
HCM CITY — HCM City on Saturday issued rules for the heightened period of COVID-19 prevention and control starting Monday, as the authorities insisted the next two weeks are not a hard lockdown or an “state of emergency”.
The more stringent measures are in response to a rise in community-acquired COVID-19 cases in the southern city in recent days, despite several weeks of strict social distancing measures and it remains the country's COVID-19 epicentre with over 170,000 cases to date.
According to the document from HCM City People’s Committee on Saturday, between 6am Monday (August 23) and September 6, to effectively carry out the social distancing measures, households will be keeping a distance from other households, neighbourhoods from neighbourhoods, and wards, communes and townships from wards, communes and townships.
All businesses and State agencies in HCM City would implement the ‘three on-site’ model (work, eat, and rest at workplaces), or ‘one route, two destinations’ model (basically meaning that workers would only travel between their homes or accommodation and the factory on a set route).
Up to a quarter of companies’ total staff are allowed to work, and must be present at the workplace before midnight Monday.
Shippers (for tech-based platforms) will no longer be allowed to operate in Thủ Đức City and districts 8, 12, Gò Vấp, Bình Tân, Bình Thạnh, Bình Chánh, Hóc Môn; while for the remaining districts, shippers can still operate, but only within that district and they cannot cross to another district.
Local authorities are asked to make arrangements so that each household in a green zone (COVID-19 free areas) or yellow zones only goes to buy food or essentials once a week, prepare up to two million ‘social welfare’ packages (comprising enough rice, vegetables, cooking oil and spice for one week) to give to the impoverished, and prepare nutritious meals to give to disadvantaged COVID-19 patients.
A special working team will be set up at each ward, commune and township classified as “high” and “very high” COVID-19 risks (under the management of the respective local people’s committees), whose members will buy food and essentials on behalf of the residents and deliver to the door, as well as work to guarantee social welfare of economically challenged people.
HCM City residents can check the status of their neighbourhood on the following pandemic map from the city's authorities: https://bando.tphcm.gov.vn/ogis/(English available).
According to the previous document from the city's authorities, only the following groups are allowed to go outside: people going out for vaccinations, those involved in activities to prevent COVID-19, supermarket staff, airport and airline crew (on assigned missions), essential service workers, staff providing meals for charity and quarantine areas, reporters and journalists, postal office workers, utility (power, water, telecom) workers and environment workers.
All will need their workplace-issued permits and identifiable uniforms (or other clothing issued by the city's authorities).
Testing and vaccinations
The city’s COVID-19 steering committee also asked for measures to control the outbreaks and reduce deaths to a minimum.
HCM City’s districts and Thủ Đức City will start to step up testing of residents in “red zones” with both rapid antigen tests and pooled samples.
Drivers of freight transport vehicles, the staff of supermarkets/markets and drug stores, utility company workers, petrol station attendants, environment workers, and those working at COVID-19 checkpoints must be tested for COVID-19 once every seven days.
400 mobile health stations (with oxygen tanks, SpO2 monitors, and quick test kits, etc.) will be set up at areas with many COVID-19 patients to help monitor and provide emergency care for positive cases under home treatment.
100,000 packages containing drugs for COVID-19 home treatment are being prepared.
Vaccination efforts will also be ramped up. As of Saturday, 5.28 million doses have been administered in HCM City, and 75 per cent of the city’s official population above 18 years old have received at least one jab. The city’s striving to have 90 per cent of all residents above 18 years old receiving at least one dose, and 15 per cent fully vaccinated by September 15.
During Saturday afternoon’s press briefing on COVID-19 prevention and control, deputy head of the city’s COVID-19 steering committee Phạm Đức Hải urged people to remain calm, amid reports of people flocking to supermarkets on Friday to hoard up on food and essentials in fear of a hard lockdown and ban on all movements.
Hải said this situation would result in further spread of the virus and threaten social distancing results.
The official underlined that the next two weeks is not a hard lockdown or state of emergency as only the National Assembly Standing Committee (or the State President) can only declare such a situation.
The military and police units have been sent to aid the city’s COVID-19 fight since the beginning, but more enforcements from the State along with equipment, testing vehicles, and medicines are arriving, he said.
Hải also stated that social distancing orders have not been enforced strictly enough, evident by spike in infections, so the rules will be tightened.
Regarding the buying of food during the next two weeks, Hải said a list of 3,000 addresses have been sent to local authorities, and in case of shortage, special vehicles would be deployed to bring goods to the residents.
“The city has been trying to anticipate possible scenarios and relevant solutions, but the implementation would certainly run into unexpected shortcomings and issues, maybe the goods might be delivered late, the permission slips for going to the market not issued on time, so please call the coordination team to remedy [the shortcomings],” the city’s official said, adding that the people and the media could report problems to the city’s authorities for intervention.
Anyone struggling could call the city’s helpline at 1022 (then press 2).
He also wanted the city’s residents to exercise caution and be united in ‘tightening of belts’ for 14 days to contribute to the COVID-19 fight and overcome the outbreaks. — VNS