By Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
Hồ Chí Minh City is not feeling well.
The most vibrant and economically wealthy city in Việt Nam has offered financial aid to help people whose incomes have been slashed due to the city's 14-day lockdown.
City officials have worked out a plan to provide self-employed workers, including street hawkers, lottery ticket sellers and motorbike taxi drivers, with a one-time payment of VNĐ2 million. Pregnant women and women raising children under six years old will receive VNĐ1 million more.
All people whose working contracts had to be suspended for more than 30 days will also be eligible for financial aid.
Another financial proposal is to support small business owners, including grocery store owners in markets that have been shut down to prevent further disease spread, for between one and three months.
According to the municipal People's Committee, a support fund with VNĐ886 billion ($38.5 million) has been set up to disburse funding to 80,000 workers whose jobs have been suspended, 230,000 self-employed workers, and local pandemic fighting staff as well as quarantined people.
When HCM City coughs, the whole country feels the cold. Its daily number of positive cases this week has been consistently above 1,000 and topped 2,000 on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Health continues to send medical teams with doctors and other health personnel to help HCM City fight the pandemic. More than 7,000 medical students have been added to the health force to start work in the city's quarantine camps and hospitals.
Deputy Minister of Health Nguyễn Trường Sơn has said that the ministry will trial home quarantine for positive cases (F0) and their close contacts (F1) in HCM City.
Even though he has said this is only an "experiment", virologists are concerned if not strictly controlled this could spread the virus to the community.
Dr Nguyễn Trung Cấp, an intensive care expert, voiced his concern in an article on Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
He told Tuổi Trẻ online that the first week of having COVID-19 is very dangerous.
"From having no signs in positive cases COVID-19 patients can turn seriously ill and depend on assisted breathing very fast, within a couple of days only," he was quoted as saying.
It's vital to have patients in hospitals, surveilled by medical staff within the first week. Patients who have gone stayed at least eight days in hospitals can be removed to an outer quarantine zone.
"It's important to contain F0 cases so that they don't spread the virus further into the community," he said.
I have been asking around for any technical feature to know if the pandemic is out of control. No one could give me a concrete answer. "It's hard to know," a doctor said. "But if your hospital can treat 1,000 patients in ICU, and you're getting more than that number, you won't be able to handle it."
"If a city has 20,000 ICU beds, and the number of positive cases keeps growing and no patients get cured, you're getting out of control," another doctor said.
Doctors and other medical workers have been exhausted for the past week, but help has been coming in many ways.
On Thursday morning, the Ministry of Health sent 10,000 medical personnel to help HCM City. Other provinces with prior experience in treating COVID-19 patients also sent their medical workers to give a hand, from nearby Bình Thuận, or farther like Quảng Nam and Nghệ An and even Hải Phòng and Nam Định in the north.
Việt Nam's biggest makeshift hospital to treat COVID-19 patients was put together in 72 hours from four abandoned apartment buildings in the Thủ Thiêm relocation residential area in HCM City.
Dr Phan Minh Hoàng, medical director on-site reportedly said: "We're all trying to put what we have together, please give a hand, or just bear with us. In only a couple of days, we shall get the hospital functioning smoothly!"
On the grassroots level, people around the country have been sending what they deem important to their fellow countrymen and women, who were always generous in helping those people in need.
Donations have been channelled via the city's Buddhist pagoda network to cook meals for people in quarantine.
People in the central provinces have collected fruit and vegetables to send south.
HCM City was the first city to announce a COVID-19 patient in 2020. Its doctors were the first to report on the symptoms and recovery of the first patients.
HCM City was where the world-famous Scottish patient No 91 spent 68 days on ECMO at death's door before recovering and being flown home last year.
All the best doctors in Việt Nam did their best to save his life, he told the UK press.
We want to assist in all the ways we possibly can, to keep doctors and medical staff on the frontline from getting exhausted or overwhelmed.
"When a horse is sick, the whole stable feels the pain," goes a popular saying.
The whole country has come together to nurse HCM City through this ordeal, and we shall all come out stronger again.
So far, Bắc Giang Province, which was the hardest-hit province before HCM City in this wave, has come out having accomplished both targets: it sold more than 200,000 tonnes of lychees, the province's speciality, and got the positive case numbers down to under 10 each day.
Hang in there, HCM City. VNS