While Ho Chi Minh City and southern provinces are taking a number of tough measures to curb COVID-19, the risks of widespread transmission are at a high level. Nguyen Thanh Long, Minister of Health, discussed with VIR’s Hoang Binh the vaccination programme and other measures to control the pandemic in the region.
COVID-19 is developing seriously in the southern region. Could you make an overall assessment of the pandemic there, and what are the risks of transmission in industrial zones (IZs) in particular?
|Nguyen Thanh Long, Minister of Health |
The pandemic, especially in Ho Chi Minh City and its neighbouring province of Binh Duong, is growing more acute, and thus the Ministry of Health (MoH) is very concerned.
In Ho Chi Minh City, there will be more community-transmitted infection cases with sources of infections being difficult to find as the virus has experienced a number of new cycles.
Risks of infections in IZs remain huge. For instance, Ho Chi Minh City and especially Binh Duong have a high density of labourers. Meanwhile, lodging areas are so crowded, thus enabling the virus to transmit more easily.
The MoH is now making great efforts in fighting the pandemic in Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, Dong Nai, and other neighbouring provinces where IZs are prevalent. The MoH assesses that the risk of transmission among IZs in the region is great. The transmission could be at eating and lodging areas, in companies, and among companies. Therefore, southern cities and provinces need to better control the pandemic in IZs.
The National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, along with the MoH, have issued detailed guidelines on the prevention and fight against the pandemic in this region with different scenarios for localities to follow.
New variants of the coronavirus mean that the issues Vietnam face this year are different from last year. Are the current measures and solutions still appropriate and suitable?
The measures and solutions applied in the region in recent days are timely and active. However, the problem in Ho Chi Minh City is how to more strictly implement social distancing, and we have discussed with the local authorities how to prevent gatherings and rampant travelling among areas, which increases risk of infections. To curb the outbreak, it needs to tighten control of transmission both inside and outside these areas.
The other issue for Ho Chi Minh City is to be more drastic and stricter in implementing the measures related to testing and making it more appropriate by scale. The MoH has issued guidance about this. Not only Ho Chi Minh City, but also other cities and provinces have to increase testing capacity. This is an important factor to control the pandemic.
The MoH also proposes that Ho Chi Minh City increases screening of all the people who visit health facilities, including patients and others in high-risk areas. In case of necessity, they should issue strict blockades.
Currently, we find that southern cities and provinces are strictly abiding by the pandemic prevention and fighting guidelines from the government, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, and the MoH.
Ho Chi Minh City is conducting mass COVID-19 vaccination and testing. Has progress so far met expectations and requirements?
We think that the preparation and scenario for the vaccinations met with problems initially. This is the first time Ho Chi Minh City has carried out such work. The city then quickly changed the process and the method of implementation.
At that time, the MoH recommended Ho Chi Minh City subdivide the vaccination places into smaller ones to prevent gatherings.
The MoH also recommends other cities and provinces carry out vaccinations in different places and in different periods of time to ensure social distancing and abide by the measures to prevent community transmission.