A woman walks past a panel in Hà Nội on Sunday advising people to wear masks to protect themselves, their family and the society against COVID-19. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt
HÀ NỘI — Deputy health minister Đỗ Xuân Tuyên urged local administrations to not set policies that go against the spirit and letter of the Government’s Resolution 128, released last week on the national plan to live with COVID-19.
He made the remarks on Monday's roundtable held by the Việt Nam Government Portal on the temporary national framework on COVID-19 response, as public and businesses’ frustration grows with varied regulations from different localities to deal with the severe and persistent fourth wave of COVID-19.
Tuyên reiterated that the fourth wave has changed Việt Nam’s approach from total elimination of COVID-19 to living safely with the disease while promoting socio-economic development.
However, he noted that we still need to detect cases and localise locked-down areas to the smallest scale possible and avoid prolonged lockdowns, while direct contacts of the confirmed cases could be isolated at home instead of being sent to centralised facilities like before.
The health ministry has issued Decision No.4800/QĐ-BYT on instructions to evaluate the level of COVID-19 in each locality, based on three criteria: the new cases over duration in a certain population, the rate of adults having at least one vaccine shot, and the treatment capacity.
The criteria were based on WHO’s guidelines and experience of 40 countries, taking into account feedback from localities and sectors, Vietnamese and foreign experts and scientists, deputy health minister Tuyên said, adding that localities cannot change these criteria.
Authorities could also plan the reopening of transportation, tourism, education and training, and manufacturing to keep activities running while maintaining COVID-19 safety, Tuyên said.
The resolution allows localities to “flexibly” set out COVID-19 measures but not go against the central-level measures and hamper travel and transport of goods.
On this note, deputy transport minister Lê Đình Thọ said the national policy might be good but more synchroneity in implementation across localities would be needed.
Previously, the multiple COVID-19 checkpoints set up by localities have caused disruptions in the flow of goods, leading to economic damage and public complaints. Some localities insisted they would allow in only drivers who had negative tests 24-48 hours prior to entry, while the health ministry has clearly stated 72 hours is fine, Thọ said.
Resolution 128 is meant to correct these inconsistencies so that all can follow the same framework and directions for safe and flexible adaptation now that the peak of the fourth wave has passed, the transport official remarked.
He added that: “We are focusing on the pilot resumption of transport activities like air, road, or rail. The resumption commenced on October 10, 2021 and how the localities coordinate has also been specified. By October 20, after the 10-day pilot period is completed, we will assess the whole thing and would issue new instructions in line with Resolution 128, that might see more frequent flights and road trip.”
As the outbreak eases, travel would surge, requiring the transport ministry to arrange the sector’s human resources to cope with the increased volume.
Professor Nguyễn Anh Trí, National Assembly deputy, and Chair of Việt Nam Association of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, and Lưu Bình Nhưỡng, former National Assembly deputy, also agreed that the timing of the Resolution is appropriate, but urged for consistency in implementation and any feedback should be promptly dealt with.
Nhưỡng said with the adoption of Resolution 128, putting an end to previous sets of COVID-19 policies like Directives No. 15, 16, 19, but social welfare packages and other support for the vulnerable and poor groups must still be continued.
Responding to queries over the fact that many localities still maintain checkpoints and demand testing results from entrants even when the Resolution was in effect, Trí said that in general, most have been improving their responses, especially with growing opinions from the public concerning reopening and facilitation of travels.
Those keeping closure and barricade measures must have not fully grasped the central-level Resolution, he noted.
Trí laid out the five measures to enhance the effectiveness of the COVID-19 fight: continuing with non-medical measures like masks or keeping a safe distance and making wider use of the national COVID-19 app PC-COVID; increase coverage of vaccines, to groups like shippers or students; stamping out outbreaks should not involve unnecessarily large scale and must be planned to be quick and accurate; faster and more targeted testing; and organising treatment facilities based on the past experience in hot spots of HCM City and Bình Dương Province. — VNS