Trần Đắc Phu
Trần Đắc Phu, former head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine and senior expert of the Việt Nam Public Health Emergency Operation Centre talks to Hải Quan (Customs) online newspaper about the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic in Việt Nam and elsewhere
Could you tell us about measures to fight the COVID-19 epidemic after the success of the quarantine in Sơn Lôi Commune, Vĩnh Phúc Province?
COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets and there is no specific vaccine and treatment, therefore, early detection, immediate isolation and identifying disease-prone areas are very essential. When we detected people, who returned from China’s Wuhan City and tested positive for SARS-CoV2, we immediately quarantined them. While the disease was found to spread to the community on a small scale, the administration of Vĩnh Phúc decided to quarantine the entire commune.
All relevant agencies, including medical agencies, army, police, youth union, women's association as well as the farmers' association joined hands in fighting the disease to ensure the health of local people. The agencies carried out solutions such as health checks and guidance for disinfection, environmental sanitation and health protection, especially dissemination to stabilise people's psychology.
The quarantine of a locality of about 10,000 people is unprecedented in Việt Nam. The Party and the State's close directions in the prevention of the COVID-19 epidemic have helped mobilise all resources to fight the disease with the motto "fighting the epidemic is like fighting against the enemy".
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Việt Nam is worried about more new cases that could enter our country while the outbreak has been reported in countries such as China, South Korea and Japan. What does the Government need to do now?
When the country recorded the first case of COVID-19, the motto of the whole health sector was early detection, prompt quarantine, identifying disease-prone areas and fighting the disease with the strongest determination without negligence.
For South Korea, the Ministry of Health has ordered provinces and cities to apply medical declarations to all visitors from South Korea. People with signs of fever, cough or shortness of breath at the border gate must immediately be quarantined at health centres and be tested for SARS-CoV-2.
For other countries such as Italy and Iran, we have applied the same measures including quarantining people returning from epidemic-hit areas while others are asked to fill in a medical declaration before entry.
Our country has succeeded in preventing and controlling rapidly emerging dangerous infectious diseases. Specifically, Việt Nam was one of the first countries to successfully control SARS, A/H5N1 and A/H1N1 flu. We also prevented a number of emerging epidemics such as influenza A/H7N9, Ebola, and Mers-CoV, contributing greatly to stabilising social security while tourism and trade between countries around the world have been increasing.
Despite these achievements, I think we still need efforts from the whole country, including the Government, ministries, localities and every citizen to respond to the disease now.
Recently, the United States’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided Việt Nam was off the list of destinations that could spread COVID-19 to the community. This result was not only thanks to the detection and treatment of COVID-19 cases but CDC also highly appreciated Việt Nam for its information transparency and the inter-sectoral response of the country in disease prevention and control.
The ministry has built four scenarios to cope with the disease. Even before the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the outbreak of COVID-19 as a global emergency, Việt Nam implemented very strong measures to prevent the disease compared to WHO recommendations.
How do you assess the capacity of Việt Nam to cope if the disease widely spreads?
Of the four anti-epidemic scenarios Việt Nam has developed, from the first case to the worst scenario of spreading the disease in the community with more than 1,000 cases, we have prepared measures to respond.
Even if the disease is widespread, we will still strictly follow the guideline of "four on the spot" (on-site quarantine; on-site treatment; on-site facilities, on-site human resources) suitable to our country's circumstances without relying on central agencies to provide funding or other protective equipment.
Currently, Việt Nam has enough capacity to quarantine about 30,000 people. Additionally, health facilities have enough beds for treatment with patients. We also have enough capacity and enough biological products to test with accuracy similar to other countries. The Real-time RT-PCR method is highly sensitive and specific.
The ministry has decided to allow mass production of COVID-19 detection kits to screen suspected patients and export to support other countries in the prevention of COVID-19. Việt Nam has become one of the few countries that can manufacture this product, besides Japan, Germany, China and the US.
Việt Nam can quickly identify disease-prone areas and control the disease with the development of treatment techniques, medicine, the capacity and experience of disease prevention and control, to ensure a safe epidemiological environment for economic and social activities.
For domestic people, they should co-ordinate with health authorities to proactively prevent the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19, seek information about the disease through official channels and avoid being worried by unverified information.—VNS