|Hà Nội People’s Committee on Thursday announced the suspension of outdoor physical exercise and sports. VNA/ VNS Photo|
Việt Nam is facing the most challenging COVID-19 wave since late April: infections in the past five days alone reached nearly 6,000 infections. This figure is even higher than the total number of cases in the previous three waves. The pandemic has also spread to 57 of the country’s provinces and cities.
Many people believe HCM City has not been able to extinguish the virus completely, despite having already undergone a month of social distancing, and that people have failed to follow social distancing measures. Now it’s high time people do so. The cases of COVID-19 in the fourth wave now have topped 22,000, with HCM City leading the number with more than 10,000 cases.
Also in the past week, the number of COVID-19 related deaths reached 25. Notably, there have been a number of deaths among young people who have no underlying health conditions.
Đồng Nai Province will adopt social distancing provincewide for 15 days starting Friday while Khánh Hòa will apply the measure in certain areas including Nha Trang City for 14 days.
Other southern localities like Bình Dương, Long An and Tiền Giang have also adopted various levels of social distancing
Hà Nội People’s Committee on Thursday announced the suspension of outdoor physical exercise and sports.
HCM City is now the hardest-hit locality with transmission sources spread all over the city.
City leaders have decided to practice stringent social distancing in accordance with the prime minister’s Directive 16 from July 9 for 15 days.
The only choice
It was not an easy decision.
The city, and the country more generally, have suffered intense economic hardships since the pandemic started in Việt Nam early last year.
But it was necessary.
Since late May, HCM City has been under the Government Directive 15 and Directive 16 for some high-risk areas. The city has also issued Directive 10 with more aggressive measures. So far, however, the pandemic has not been brought under control and the risk of infection is still high.
Directive 16 bans contact between families, imposes isolation of villages, communes, districts, cities and provinces, and prohibits gatherings of more than two people outside offices, schools and hospitals.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, the directive also requires people to refrain from going out except to buy food, medicines and other necessities or in case of emergency. If they need to venture out residents must wear face masks and wash their hands regularly.
In line with the directive, public passenger transport services and nonessential services are suspended. Even shipping services, via food delivery apps, have been halted.
Factories, construction projects, essential goods suppliers, banks, treasuries, cargo transport service operators, import-export service providers and medical checkup and treatment services are allowed to remain operational, but must strictly comply with COVID-19 safety protocols.
The Ministry of Health also requires people arriving from HCM City in other localities to self-isolate for seven days and monitor their own health for the following week. This includes being tested for COVID-19 three times during their self-isolation.
The Directive, with the strictest anti-epidemic measures issued to date, however, is not a silver bullet.
Awareness of, and compliance with the regulations, are the key to positive results.
In order for the social distancing period not to go to waste, for the next two weeks, people should not go outside to prevent more infections. This is the only way to relieve the burden on the medical system.
But residents of HCM will not be left to police themselves.
City leaders have taken aggressive steps to ensure residents adhere to the rules. They have issued fines ranging from VNĐ1 million to 40 million for individuals and organisations who do not follow the social distancing rules. The heaviest fines are reserved for gatherings of more than three people.
The Government understands the hardship many people have to go through during this difficult time and has taken steps toward sharing the people’s economic burdens.
Recently it issued Resolution No 68 covering a number of policies supporting employees and employers facing difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s worth a total of VNĐ26 trillion (US$1.13 billion).
Accordingly, about 80,000 employees who had to temporarily stop working or had to take unpaid leave will receive VNĐ1.8 million ($78.62) per person.
In addition, there will be VNĐ1 million or pregnant workers, people raising children under six years old (VNĐ1 million per child), or carers.
Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính assured residents "the full support of the Government will be available to support HCM City". He added that vaccines arriving in July will be prioritised for the southern COVID hot spot.
At the same time, all the stops have been pulled out to bring more vaccines to the people.
The country’s leaders have been working diligently to acquire COVID vaccines.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyễn Minh Vũ told reporters that in hundreds of phone calls at home and abroad, there is not a single foreign meeting of the Party and State leaders that does not mention cooperating on vaccine acquisition, production, and distribution.
Việt Nam has managed to obtain 10 million doses of vaccine in July and August.
The first batch of nearly 100,000 doses of Pfizer COVID vaccine arrived in Việt Nam earlier this week, and two million Moderna COVID vaccines are slated to arrive today.
Up to date, Việt Nam has delivered almost four million jabs to approximately four per cent of the population.
Until the country can get that number much higher, Việt Nam won’t be able to relax its anti-epidemic measures.
Therefore, the country needs commitment, exceptional behaviour, and for people to take responsibility and acknowledge the gravity of the situation we're living in.
If we take care of ourselves and follow all the measures adopted by the national, departmental and municipal authorities, we will save lives and contribute to a faster economic recovery, for the benefit of everyone. VNS