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With first battles won, Vietnam stays vigilant in enduring fight against COVID-19

Saturday, April 25, 2020, 16:30 GMT+7
With first battles won, Vietnam stays vigilant in enduring fight against COVID-19
Passengers wearing face masks maintain a safe distance away from one another on a bus in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 24, 2020. It was the second day that public buses had been allowed to resume in the capital city after a COVID-19 social distancing period. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

People in Vietnam are told not to let their guard down although the country has seen a slowing rate of new novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and social distancing rules have been relaxed.

“We can be happy with the outcomes of COVID-19 prevention and control to date, but we should not forget that we have only won individual battles, not the whole fight,” stressed Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam as he chaired a meeting of the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control on Friday.

Vietnam has confirmed 270 COVID-19 infection cases so far, of whom 220, or over 81 percent of the tally, have been cleared of the virus and exited the hospital.

No death related to the disease has been recorded in the country.

However, the committee underlined that the pandemic remains complicated as evidenced by the growing number of new infection cases and fatalities daily around the world.

Risks still out there

According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tran Dac Phu, senior adviser at the Public Health Emergency Operations Center under the Ministry of Health, what Vietnam has done in the past phase of fighting COVID-19 were to prevent as many suspected cases and those carrying the disease as possible from contacting with healthy people, as well as to drastically seal off areas with outbreaks.

These moves, together with enhanced social distancing measures introduced by the government from April, have helped minimize community spread of the acute respiratory disease.

But there is still a long way to go before the pandemic can be completely stopped.

Phu quoted statistics as saying that 40 percent of those carrying the pathogen have been asymptomatic or only exhibited mild symptoms, warning of the risk of new community-transmitted cases in the time to come.

In the absence of vaccines and drugs, world’s experts have expressed concerns over the risks of COVID-19 reinfection and the second wave of COVID-19 importation in such countries as South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, among others, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long told Friday’s meeting.

In Vietnam, there have been five cases testing positive for the novel coronavirus again after having been cleared of the virus and discharged from the hospital as of Saturday.

Therefore, Long said, there might still be undetected carriers of the virus in the community.

Passengers of a flight bringing 215 Vietnamese citizens home from Singapore arrive at Can Tho International Airport in the namesake Mekong Delta city, Vietnam, April 24, 2020. Photo: Chi Quoc / Tuoi Tre
Passengers of a flight bringing 215 Vietnamese citizens home from Singapore arrive at Can Tho International Airport in Can Tho City in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, April 24, 2020. Photo: Chi Quoc / Tuoi Tre

Another wave of Vietnamese people returning to the country from abroad is also likely to cause Vietnam's COVID-19 tally to rise in the coming weeks.

The Ministry of Health on Friday afternoon announced two new imported cases detected in a quarantine camp after the country had reported no new infections for over a week.

Earlier this week, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam announced that 13 flights will be arranged to bring Vietnamese citizens home from 11 countries.

On Friday afternoon, a flight carrying 215 Vietnamese citizens from Singapore landed in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho. They have all been placed under centralized quarantine upon arrival.

The Ho Chi Minh City Party chief Nguyen Thien Nhan said on the same afternoon that the southern metropolis is expected to welcome 2,000 overseas Vietnamese citizens home in the coming days.

As Vietnam is expected to cautiously implement measures to restart the economy as per a new directive of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued on Friday, officials and residents are told to uphold best practices to minimize the opportunities for virus transmission.

Economic scenarios

International organizations have mapped out different scenarios for Vietnam’s economy in the rest of 2020.

In the 'Economic Outlook Q2-2020: The global storm' paper released on April 9, Standard Chartered Bank predicted that Vietnam’s economy will slow down this year, reaching only 3.3 percent of growth due to the impact of external challenges.

According to this report, manufacturing growth will decline sharply due to the decline in global demand, while the service sector, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the country’s GDP, is expected to decelerate this year.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast a GDP growth rate of 2.7 percent in 2020 for Vietnam, higher than that of its regional peers, in its 'World Economic Outlook' report published on April 14.

Despite the 3.8-percent difference from its January estimates, the IMF raised its estimate for the Southeast Asian country’s economic growth to seven percent in 2021.

Earlier, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) also forecast that Vietnam's economic growth in 2020 will reach 4.8 percent.

Workers produce face masks at a factory in Vietnam. Photo: T.D.H. / Tuoi Tre
Workers produce face masks at a factory in Vietnam. Photo: T.D.H. / Tuoi Tre

According to Dr. Pham The Anh of the Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research (VEPR), in the most optimistic scenario where the epidemic will have been completely under control in Vietnam by mid-May and domestic economic activities will gradually return to normal, the country’s economic growth is forecast to approximate 4.2 percent this year.

However, Anh added that the domestic economic prospects will also rely on global efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keeping guard up

Delivering Friday meeting’s closing remarks, Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam asked everyone to be happy with Vietnam’s hitherto positive outcomes of COVID-19 prevention and control with restraint as not all risks have been eliminated.

Dam called on every citizen and disease prevention force to continue to implement the government’s directives and follow guidance from the health sector while working to bring life back to normal.

Despite the relaxation of social distancing measures, everyone is advised to refrain from leaving their homes, limit social interaction, wear face masks while outside, maintain a safe distance from others, wash their hands regularly, and avoid gathering in large numbers.

Disease prevention forces at all levels are requested to stay on alert and determined to thoroughly prevent imported infections, quickly detect all suspected cases for timely quarantine, focusing on some at-risk areas like industrial parks, workers' accommodations, and neighborhoods populated by freelance laborers and people most vulnerable to infection.

“We must not be complacent or let our guard down in any situation,” Dam underlined.

He also ordered ministries and agencies to urgently have detailed instructions for each aspect of the society such as transportation, tourism, production, business, and education to resume safely.

Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam speaks at a meeting of the Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control in Hanoi, April 24, 2020. Photo: Vietnam Government Portal
Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam speaks at a meeting of the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control in Hanoi, April 24, 2020. Photo: Vietnam Government Portal

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