With Vietnam shifting its focus to adapting to and living with the Covid-19 pandemic, experts say proper risk classification and conditional easing of restrictions will assume crucial importance.
They agree with the government’s move to reopen and revive the economy after months of stringent restrictions, but stress that vigilance and proper control measures are needed for the move to succeed.
National Assembly deputy Hoang Van Cuong said many countries in the world have given up on plans to eliminate the novel coronavirus and switched to living safely with it.
But, for Vietnam to co-exist with the pandemic, necessary measures should be maintained to prevent the disease from spreading, he said.
“We would have to accept that there will still be infections in the community, yet outbreaks will be put under control, and at the same time, we would stay open and develop the economy.
“Of course we must have a roadmap for reopening, with measures to control outbreaks. We cannot try to return to normal at all costs,” he said.
Localities need to avoid “two extreme situations” when reopening: wait until there is no more Covid-19 community case to make the move, or rushing to reopen and compromising safety.
The shift in approach has been stressed by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh more than once.
At a meeting with medical experts early this month, Chinh said: “We cannot stay in isolation and lockdown forever because the difficulty it places on the society and economy is huge.”
He said vaccines and drugs are a “long-term strategy and decisive tools” and that “we have to know that this war is still a long one and we will have to live with the pandemic for a long time.”
The PM also said it was impossible to control the pandemic completely now, “and we must adapt and have suitable ways to respond to the situation.”
Legislator Cuong said the first condition for reopening was the ability to put community outbreaks under control and ensure that the number of new cases will be within the treatment capacity of the healthcare sector.
“Safety in the current context means that a locality must proactively take measures to prevent an outbreak from spreading and be able to handle infections as soon as they occur to protect the healthcare system from overload and minimize the number of deaths,” he said.
Tran Dac Phu, senior advisor at the Public Health Emergency Operations Center under the Health Ministry, said after a period of social distancing, reopening for economic development and social security becomes a necessity.
However, disease control must remain a top priority, he added.
“Each locality should rely on the actual situation in the area to develop an appropriate plan for loosening restrictions… gradually narrowing down areas with very high risks and expanding areas with lower risks,” he said.
Citing Ho Chi Minh City, the epicenter of Vietnam’s latest Covid-19 wave, as an example, he said the city has gone through different levels of social distancing rule since late May. From July 9 until recently, it has been put under Directive 16, the strictest measures that do not allow people to go out except for “essential purposes.”
At present, the city’s districts 7, Can Gio and Cu Chi have become stable so they could start reopening step by step while other districts have to be more cautious.
Meanwhile, Hanoi has gone through more than 50 days of social distancing and the entire city has basically put its outbreak under control, so it can start easing social distancing requirements after Sept. 15.
Dr. Nguyen Duc Thai with the University of California San Francisco said the pandemic situation in Vietnam was still complicated and remained heterogeneous in places. Therefore, based on testing, each locality needs to clearly separate areas into very high-risk, high-risk, and low-risk classifications for better management.
Social distancing and regular tests must be continued in very high-risk areas. For other areas, occasional mass testing can be done and essential services should be gradually reopened based on their pandemic situations.
He added that aside from testing, Vietnam needed to invest in drugs for treatment as well as medical oxygen to save as many patients as possible.
The experts were on the same page about ensuring vaccine coverage, saying that it was crucial to boost the campaign nationwide.
Phu said high vaccination rate was an important factor in Vietnam returning to normalcy because it would prevent the condition of Covid-19 patients from worsening and causing death. This would, in turn, ease the burden on the healthcare system.
“We have to achieve the target of vaccinating more than 70 percent of the population so that if the outbreak returns, the health sector will be saved from getting overloaded.
“Hanoi and HCMC have almost administered almost all adults with the first vaccine dose and have started on the second. Many other localities are still far behind in their low vaccination rates.”
“In the final months of this year, vaccination speed should pick up as more doses come to Vietnam from different sources,” said Cuong.
Dr. Thai said Vietnam should give vaccine priority to people above 65 and those with underlying health conditions and at the same time, quickly complete procedures for recognizing fully vaccinated ones so that they can return to work and join the frontline forces.
For a roadmap to reopening the economy, Cuong suggested prioritizing activities with little contact among people and in large opening spaces, such as outdoor agricultural production and outdoor construction work.
For indoor production activities, he proposed priority for factories that can completely separate each department from the other and ensure that cross-infection occurs in case someone tests positive.
“In case there is an infection in one department, only that would be shut down, instead of the whole factory,” he said.
Restaurants and eateries should be opened soon because they are essential, yet safety must be guaranteed once they are allowed to reopen, said Cuong.
He also said that while indoor restaurants can be restricted to serving takeaways, those with ample outdoor space can be allowed to open with on site service.
High-risk services such as discos, bars, karaoke, massage parlors, which are offered all in closed space “cannot be opened any time soon,” he said.
Vietnam has recorded 630,662 Covid-19 community cases in 62 out of its 63 cities and localities. Of these, 15,901 have died.
Over 67% of Covid-19 patients at HCM City Covid-19 Resuscitation Hospital need psychological support
According to a survey by the Covid-19 Resuscitation Hospital in HCM City, up to 67% of patients said they wanted to have psychological counseling.
|Psychologist Tri Thi Minh Thuy talks with a severe Covid-19 patient who has recovered from the disease and is about to be discharged from the hospital. Photo: Cho Ray Hospital.|
According to the survey, 20% of the patients suffered depression, 53.3% with anxiety disorder, and 16.7% with stress.
In particular, up to 66.7% patients who needed High Flow Nasal Cannula (HFNC) suffered from depression. Similarly, 66.7% patients who had to breathe oxygen through a mask or mechanical ventilator suffered from anxiety disorder.
As many as 67% of patients wanted psychological counseling during treatment and after being discharged from the hospital.
The hospital has invited psychologist Tri Thi Minh Thuy from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City, to survey and provide psychological treatment support for patients at the hospital.
“When they go to the hospital for Covid-19 treatment, patients have to be away from their families and fight the virus alone to survive so it’s easy to cause sadness and loss of appetite,” said Dr. Thuy.
“Seeing me, many patients remained still. I said if you agree to talk to me, please give me a sign. They understood what I was saying but did not do anything. I had to help them eat and drink, talk to them, give them a massage, then they began to open their hearts,” she said.
After getting into contact with many severely ill Covid-19 patients, Dr. Thuy concluded that they suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, or depression. This is why they need a psychologist.
Côn Đảo to return to ‘new normal’ under province’s proposal
HCM CITY — Several wards and communes in Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province are expected to continue to be under the Government’s Directive 16, while Côn Đảo District would return to a “new normal” state.
The provincial Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control on Tuesday held a meeting on epidemic prevention and control plans after September 22 to discuss ending the province’s 5th social distancing period.
Directive 16 would continue to be applied in wards Nguyễn An Ninh, Thắng Nhất, Thắng Nhì, 1, 10 and 11, located in various districts.
Some communes and towns in Long Điền District, namely Phước Hưng, An Ngãi and Long Hải, will also be under Directive 16.
Bà Rịa City, Phú Mỹ Town, Châu Đức District, Đất Đỏ District and Xuyên Mộc District, together with the remaining communes and towns of Long Điền District, will be under the more relaxed Directive 15.
Production and business activities in Côn Đảo District will resume in a new normal state. However, traffic from the mainland to the island must be carefully monitored.
Districts such as Châu Đức, Đất Đỏ, Xuyên Mộc and Bà Rịa City aim to slowly recover and carefully open some types of economic activities in four stages.
During the first stage, between September 23 and 30, those areas will loosen travel control in the “green zone” and reopen supermarkets, retail store chains, small businesses selling essential items, traditional markets and take-away food services, and resume agricultural, forestry and fishery production activities.
The second stage, from October 1 to 31, involves tourism at hotels with closed services.
If the epidemic continues to be controlled well and Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu returns to the new normal, the third stage, from November 11 to December 31, will be implemented.
The locality will allow tourist and resort establishments to welcome guests who are fully vaccinated. Real estate agencies, and security and insurance activities will be permitted to open, and intra-provincial public transport will operate at 50 per cent capacity. Education, training services and sports activities would be limited to no more than 20 people.
All economic activities in the last stage will reopen in 2022.
Vice chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Trần Văn Tuấn is seeking feedback from authorities and will announce the final plan soon.
As of September 21, after more than two months of social distancing, Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu had recorded 3,943 COVID-19 cases. —
Five teens killed in road crash during Mid-Autumn Festival in northern Vietnam
Five teenage boys were killed and two others injured following a road accident involving four motorbikes that were traveling at high speed in the northern Vietnamese province of Phu Tho on Tuesday night.
The crash took place along a street in Minh Tan Commune, Cam Khe District at around 10:30 pm, according to Nguyen Hong Son, chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee.
A total of seven teenagers were traveling on four motorbikes at high speed when they crashed into one another.
Four of them were killed on the spot, while the other three were admitted to the hospital with serious injuries.
One of the injured later died at around 1:00 am on Wednesday.
The five deceased victims were identified as Nguyen Ngoc Duy, 16, Nguyen Trung Dung, 16, Doan Quoc Hoi, 17, Nguyen Thanh Toan, 18, and Nguyen Truong Son, 16, according to An Toan Giao Thong (Traffic Safety) newspaper, which is managed by the National Committee for Traffic Safety.
Khuat Viet Hung, vice-chairman of the committee, has requested authorities in Phu Tho to promptly carry out an investigation and find out the cause of the accident.
Hung directed competent authorities to check whether the victims were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and to verify any signs of illegal street racing.
The boys are believed to have been celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival prior to the crash, the provincial traffic safety committee reported.
The National Committee for Traffic Safety also asked their family members to pay attention to pandemic prevention and control measures when organizing funerals for the victims.
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