As the COVID-19 caseloads in neighboring countries are rising steeply, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has pointed out the looming threat of another outbreak in the nation, which requires urgent preventive measures to be taken.
The statement was made by the deputy premier during a meeting of the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control on Tuesday.
The steering committee required a thorough probe of the country’s quarantine center system, both army-run and privately-owned facilities, to prevent cross infection among residents.
Quarantine centers should be equipped with surveillance cameras that provide real-time footage for multiple management bodies at the same time, the committee added.
The probe should also cover the monitoring protocol and medical screening for discharged quarantine residents.
A plan to expand the capacity of the quarantine zones to pre-empt a future outbreak should also be in place, the committee said.
Free COVID-19 testing for all
Vietnam is seeing signs of negligence of coronavirus prevention protocols, namely public gathering restrictions and face mask wearing, despite its current success in containing the pandemic, evidenced by the country having gone 33 days in a row without any new community case, according to the Ministry of Health.
Border guards have reported a multitude of illegal entrants to Vietnam in the past weeks, which could bring the COVID-19 pathogen back to the country and enkindle another outbreak.
The risk is even higher, considering Vietnamese residents are taking advantage of the upcoming four-day holiday weekend to travel in droves, which would make COVID-19 containment much more challenging.
The Reunification Day and International Workers' Day entitle most workers in Vietnam to a four-day break from April 30 to May 3.
Deputy PM Dam emphasized the immense risk of transmission from neighboring countries, as well as from members of the local community.
He pointed out a recent case, where a hotel staffer was infected after coming into contact with a group of Indian experts quarantined in northern Yen Bai Province, as a prime example.
Dam called for a continued effort in epidemic detection, prevention, isolation, outbreak outlining, and treatment.
Country borders must be thoroughly monitored, while awareness-raising campaigns on the threat of border jumpers and the importance of early reports of illegal entrants must be boosted in border areas, the official underlined.
Entrants who come to Vietnam legally through border gates will not have to pay for quarantine fees and testing, as the majority are indeed unable to pay, according to the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control.
During the meeting, the steering committee also urged the Ministry of Health to complete a testing plan with sufficient adaptability against discrete pandemic scenarios, plus integration of the latest foreign technology and acceleration of homegrown vaccine development.
Testing capacity in areas at high risk of transmission, namely the southwest provinces that adjoin Cambodia, must be raised to brace for a potential hike in testing demand in the future.
Preparing for social distancing
A representative of the committee also urged the Ministry of Health to report to the prime minister a coordinated social distancing plan.
Whenever a province- or city-scale social distancing mandate is required, local authorities must discuss with their neighboring provinces and cities and inform the prime minister.
The social distancing should be limited to the smallest possible area and introduced with a specified end date so that the damage from disruption of business operations can be minimized.
Provinces and relevant agencies are required to adhere strictly to the prime minister's guidance on curbing social gatherings.
The country should stay ready against another outbreak, but business operations should also be maintained with respect to safety guidelines, Deputy PM Dam stated.