Vietnam is slowly but surely rolling back the latest wave of COVID-19 in the northern province of Bac Giang, the worst outbreak in the country so far. Nguyen Truong Son, Deputy Minister of Health, talked to Eric Lam about the application of the policy to fight the virus while maintaining production.
Vietnam has undergone several outbreaks of COVID-19 since early 2020, with the latest epicentres being the northern provinces of Bac Giang and Bac Ninh. As a leader of pandemic prevention efforts, how is the current outbreak different from the previous ones?
|Nguyen Truong Son, Deputy Minister of Health |
With drastic directions from the prime minister, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, and comprehensive support from the Ministry of Health (MoH), other ministries, cities and provinces, organisations, businesses, and the locals, the pandemic fight in Bac Giang has been the most difficult and challenging for Vietnam so far. However, the situation has been gradually brought under control.
The number of new infections has been falling, with most cases focused around Nui Hieu hamlet, Quang Chau commune of Viet Yen district, and concentrated isolation areas. However, risks remain high in industrial parks as infections are still recorded.
In previous stages, most infections were reported in urban communities like Vinh Phuc, Danang, Hai Duong, and Ho Chi Minh City, and then spread to industrial clusters. However, the scale of the outbreaks was small. For example, in Danang, the pandemic spread from a hospital to the outside. In Hai Duong, the coronavirus was first detected at a small business in an industrial cluster and then spread into the community. In other localities, there were small community outbreaks, enabling authorities to swiftly assume control.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 was first detected in industrial parks in Bac Giang on a larger scale with faster spread. Bac Giang has four such parks which are adjacent to each other where large workforces work in a closed and confined environment. Moreover, these workers come mostly from other cities and provinces, and live in close quarters at boarding houses. This made controlling the pandemic more difficult.
In addition, medical experts pointed out that the outbreak in Bac Giang was of the delta variant of COVID-19 first identified in India.
While the COVID-19 outbreak in Bac Giang is basically under control, risks of a resurgence remain. What key measures has the MoH’s special standing task force applied to overcome outbreak in the province?
The fight against COVID-19 in Bac Giang involves the entire political system, and people with all-out efforts in localising, tracing, testing and quarantine.
A number of new methods have been applied to the fight in Bac Giang, such as doing rapid antigen tests on site, while localising workers from other cities and provinces and applying lockdown in high-risk areas. The establishment of field hospitals was also accelerated to make them ready for use.
Highlights of Vietnam’s COVID-19 fight
Since the first stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, measures by the Vietnamese government went beyond the recommendations of the World Health Organization. Its measures to prevent transmission have been lauded by the international community. The country also fast-tracked research and development activities of COVID-19 test kits along with IT solutions such as telehealth.
In the latest outbreak featuring newer COVID-19 variants with faster transmission, Vietnam has been using fast testing as its main weapon of choice, with rigorous quarantine, testing, and treatment in hotspots.
For the first time, Vietnam applied concentrated quarantine measures in crowded areas, especially in dormitories for workers at industrial zones, while maintaining rapid testing.
Since the beginning, Vietnam has been fostering international cooperation to deal with the global health crisis, ensuring the supply of medical supplies across ASEAN and working with the United States to establish a Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Vietnam.
Local authorities continue to fight against COVID-19 while ensuring manufacturing operations continue without interruption in Bac Giang. How is this policy applied in practice?
These policy directions aim to manage the safety of workers at companies qualified to resume operations and manufacturing. Accordingly, labourers are qualified to work under the rules of local administrative and health authorities where they have permanent residence or temporary residence from May 9 onwards and have tested negative for the virus twice, with the latest being a day before returning to work.
At the same time, businesses have to commit to managing their workers’ movements from the company to their place of residence to ensure the highest possible safety at production sites.
This model helps ensure that production and supply chains are uninterrupted while maintaining employment and easing pandemic burdens on the society.
I think these measures are appropriate for the COVID-19 prevention and fight in Bac Giang and have helped mobilise businesses to join the efforts.