|PM Phạm Minh Chính leads a Government delegation to inspect COVID-19 prevention and control measures in HCM City on Saturday. Photo Nhật Bắc|
HCM CITY — Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính has ordered HCM City to enhance COVID-19 measures, including offering more rapid COVID-19 tests and taking steps to prevent cross-infection in centralised quarantine areas as the more contagious Delta variant continues to spread in the city.
PM Chính, who led a delegation on Saturday to inspect COVID-19 prevention and control measures in the city, said the outbreak remained unpredictable with all city districts reporting locally transmitted cases.
The inspection took place as hundreds of locally transmitted cases were being detected daily, with many unknown sources of infection.
The country’s largest city of 13 million people has extended citywide social distancing to the end of the month, and is expected to extend it further as the situation has not improved.
The delegation on Saturday visited the vaccine research centre of Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Joint Stock Company in Saigon Hi-Tech Park (Thủ Đức City). It is one of four Covid-19 vaccine production units in Việt Nam.
“Vaccine production is a process that requires great investment in human resources, technology transfer, and research and production,” Chính said. “The vaccine, which plays the decisive factor in containing the pandemic, is one of the best ways to bring life back to normal.”
HCM City is speeding up its largest-ever vaccination campaign, which started on June 19, with a target of providing more than 800,000 doses for priority groups, including workers at export processing zones and industrial parks, by June 27.
Chính said the country should be able to produce made-in-Việt Nam vaccines no later than June next year.
The PM also inspected a quarantine area in a dormitory at the Việt Nam National University of HCM City, where more than 5,200 people are isolated. Since May 28, some 1,800 people have completed their quarantine here.
“HCM City must learn a lesson from Bắc Giang Province about preventing cross-infection in concentrated quarantine areas. A whole floor in Bắc Giang had shared only one toilet, significantly increasing the risk of cross-infection as one infected person could spread the virus to others on the same floor.”
Chính has demanded that the city use the police force or even military forces to enhance supervision of centralised quarantine areas to prevent people from escaping or being in close contact with each other.
“People in the quarantine areas are at a very high risk of infection. We will waste all our efforts if we let a few cases spread to others,” he said.
More than 11,500 people are staying at concentrated quarantine areas in the city, while 26,600 are at home or at other accommodations.
The PM has urged the Minister of Health to work with the Medicon Co. Ltd. to speed up production of COVID-19 rapid-test kits to send to HCM City to test high-risk people such as F1 cases (close contacts of COVID-19 patients).
The PM and the delegation on Saturday also inspected prevention measures at Nissei Electric Vietnam Co Ltd Company in the Linh Trung Export Processing Zone 1 (Thủ Đức City). This is the second time the PM has inspected COVID-19 prevention measures in HCM City since he took office in early April.
Last month, Chính inspected prevention measures at the HCM City Hospital of Medicine and Pharmacy University and Chợ Rẫy Hospital, two large hospitals that receive many patients from southern provinces and cities.
Protecting people at high risk
Nguyễn Trí Dũng, director of the HCM City Centre for Disease Control (HCDC), said the city should focus on protecting people at high risk with underlying medical conditions who need to be vaccinated.
Currently, 68 per cent of COVID patients have no symptoms, while 1.3 per cent of them have severe symptoms (31 cases), according to Dũng.
“Most of the cases are nearly asymptomatic or have unclear or very mild symptoms. So, we cannot detect them unless they see a doctor or have a test. This is causing a delay in detecting positive cases, and thus worsening the spread of the coronavirus,” he said.
People have been asked not to leave their home unless absolutely necessary and to continue to strictly comply with prevention measures and maintain social distancing as “everyone is now potentially a source of infection”.
“We need to learn to live safely with the virus,” he said.
Close contacts isolated at home
Health Minister Nguyễn Trường Sơn said the city was given permission to pilot a programme to allow people classified as F1 (close contacts of COVID patients) to be quarantined at home instead of in concentrated quarantine areas.
“The number of F1 cases has continued to rise, causing overloading at centralised quarantine areas and exhausting medical staff,” he said.
As of 2pm on June 25, HCM City had applied lockdown measures in nearly 500 areas, mostly in Thủ Đức City, and Hóc Môn and Bình Tân districts, affecting nearly 100,000 people who have been told not to leave their place of residence.
The city has set up checkpoints to control vehicles at the gateways of these areas. It also plans to increase its testing capacity, with up to 500,000 samples per day.
New infection chains continue to occur in the community, such as wholesale markets, traditional markets, industrial parks and residential areas, as well as in isolation and lockdown areas.
According to the Health Department, since the beginning of the fourth wave in late April, the city has recorded more than 2,500 locally transmitted cases. The city has the second highest number of cases in the fourth COVID wave (after Bắc Giang Province).
Over a 24-hour period, starting at 6am on June 24, the city detected a record 667 cases, most of which were in isolation and lockdown areas. However, 14 of them were discovered through COVID-19 screenings at hospitals, while a nurse at Bình Thạnh District Medical Centre tested positive.
The total number of cases in Việt Nam has reached more than 15,115 since the beginning of the pandemic early last year. A total of 74 deaths have been recorded in the country. — VNS