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Cases trend down, but when will COVID-19 be declared over in Vietnam?

Cases trend down, but when will COVID-19 be declared over in Vietnam?

Sunday, May 01, 2022, 10:00 GMT+7
Cases trend down, but when will COVID-19 be declared over in Vietnam?
The number of new COVID-19 cases is on the decline, while Vietnam is speeding up COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

New COVID-19 hospitalizations have been spiraling downward in Ho Chi Minh City since late March, as the city has detected fewer than 100 cases each day, or even below 50, over the past few days.

The city has not reported coronavirus-related deaths for several days.

Ho Chi Minh City used to be the country’s COVID-19 hotbed, with the daily caseload ranging from 5,000 to 7,000.

The southern city had previously reported over 10,000 infections in a single day, while announcing over 300 virus-linked fatalities per day.

Aside from Ho Chi Minh City, many other cities and provinces in Vietnam have seen a sharp decline in new COVID-19 cases.

No localities have reported a single-day infection spike to over 1,000, while the peak of the pandemic in February and March was 1,000 cases or more a day in over 30 cities and provinces.

Daily COVID-19 deaths have fallen to below 10, while 85 percent of Vietnam’s communes and wards are at low risk of coronavirus transmission.

Awaiting a 28-day streak of no locally-transmitted infections

As COVID-19 is listed as an infectious disease in Group A, which means it is deemed a particularly dangerous illness and patients are treated for free, the pandemic can only be declared over when 28 days has passed since the latest COVID-19 case is isolated.

Vietnam still finds it hard to declare the end of COVID-19 despite new infections tumbling, critical cases dipping below 700 -- as announced by the Ministry of Health -- equivalent to one-fifth of the peak seen in mid-March, and the decreasing severity of the disease thanks to the nearly-100-percent second-shot coverage among people aged 12 or older.

In addition, it is tough to resume social activities normally even though the pandemic has been put under control. 

In early April, many tourists who booked hotel rooms on Con Dao Islands off southern Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province lamented that they were asked to show a negative COVID-19 test certificate.

At the start of April, Hanoi allowed bars, karaoke parlors, and dance clubs to reopen after over two years of closure due to the pandemic.

If COVID-19 cases tick up again, students will be asked to study online at home.

As such, when the pandemic is declared as an endemic disease is in the spotlight as it affects everyone's life.

Will new regulations be issued based on the new situation?

An expert of the Ministry of Health told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the existing requirements for prevention and control of infectious diseases in Group A like COVID-19 were set in 2007 and banked on the International Health Regulations.

Vietnam and many nations are applying these regulations. As the rules were imposed in the context of no infectious diseases lasting as long as COVID-19, the country is now facing some obstacles.

Based on the 'new normal' stage, the Ministry of Health will issue more appropriate regulations, but will not come to the table with listing COVID-19 in any particular group, according to Assistant Professor Le Thi Anh Thu, president of the Ho Chi Minh City Infection Control Society.

The discussions will be centered on easing epidemic control measures to best suit the changing situation.

COVID-19 is still unpredictable, but it is necessary to adopt more flexible measures depending on the developments of the pandemic.

Gradually easing pandemic control measures

The Ministry of Health has recently introduced new guidance on adjusting the definition of COVID-19 and redefining the term 'close contact,' apart from stopping the quarantining of those who have had direct contact with COVID-19 patients, only monitoring their health conditions instead.

This is a new approach which helps gradually ease coronavirus control measures because just a few months ago, the close contacts of confirmed cases had to undergo a mandatory quarantine period at a concentrated quarantine center and then self-isolate at home.

Furthermore, the ministry has lifted several restrictions on international tourists such as quarantine and test requirements.

No COVID-19 test and quarantine mandates required for people arriving from pandemic-hit areas are paving the way for more travel.

The easing of such restrictions has contributed to bringing life back to normal, but there are still some hindrances.

Though COVID-19 is already familiar and is not as dangerous as it was over two years ago, it has yet to be an endemic disease.

“The principle of prevention and control for an endemic disease is maintaining all activities and transmission at a baseline level in an area," said a health expert.

"As for COVID-19, the pandemic control measures remain wide.”

Unclear regulations might urge cities and provinces to issue their own measures that are stringent and manageable but are tough for residents if the number of new cases goes up again.

A representative of the Ho Chi Minh Department of Health claimed that in spite of positive developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is still applying the Health Ministry’s guidance on restrictive measures until further notice.

It is vital to carefully study and assess the situation before changing the measures.

The city’s health authority has been taking quarantine and treatment measures in a flexible manner.

However, it is necessary to wait for the ministry’s decision and consistent guidance, said the representative.

COVID-19 has been in Vietnam for over two years, causing unprecedented consequences, while unprecedented epidemic control measures were adopted as well.

It is time for a more appropriate change backed by high vaccination rates and far better public awareness.

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Tieu Bac - L.Anh - C.Nuong / Tuoi Tre News

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