Epidemic fight needs to be faster and more drastic

Since the detection of positive cases for SARS-CoV-2 in the northern provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh on January 27, this COVID-19 outbreak has been assessed as much more worrying than previous waves in 2020, as the new strain of the virus has a higher rate of spread, while the cycle of infection is shorter.

Medical workers take a swab from a resident in Van Don district, Quang Ninh province for COVID-19 testing (Photo: VNA)
Medical workers take a swab from a resident in Van Don district, Quang Ninh province for COVID-19 testing (Photo: VNA)

Results of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing frompatients in Hai Duong (Poyun Company) and Quang Ninh conducted by scientists of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology showed a genome similar to strain B.1.1.7, having first appeared in the UK in December, 2020.

According to UK experts, the B.1.1.7 variant spreads more easily and quickly, and may be associated with an increased risk of mortality as compared to others, but further studies are needed to confirm this. This is the strain that has caused widespread outbreaks in the UK as well as many European countries.

Therefore, within a short time, the number of people infected with COVID-19 not only increased in number in the epidemic spots of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, but also spread to many localities including Hanoi, Bac Ninh, Gia Lai, and Binh Duong.

From the above analysis, in the meeting between the Ministry of Health and the People's Committee of Hanoi on February 2, the head of the health sector emphasised that faster and more drastic action is required.

Hanoi and a number of localities need to change their coping strategies and raise their response level to the epidemic compared to the last outbreak as Hanoi's residents have close relationships with the provinces s eeingoutbreaks and they also have very complicated travel itineraries.

Currently, the Ministry of Health has sent elite forces (tracing, testing, and treating) experienced in responding to epidemics in Son Loi (Vinh Phuc) and Da Nang to assist Hai Duong in controlling the outbreak. However, with the very different developments of the epidemic, it is necessary to trace all the people who have had direct orclose contact with the confirmed cases.

Epidemiological experts have noted the need to zone areas of infection off immediately. When all samples in that area test negative, social distancing can be taken into account. Some experts have also recommended F1 cases be considered as infected cases, in order to apply appropriate measures. Considering F1 as an infection and retrieving and treating F2 similar to F1; the self-quarantining at home of F2 cases should be supervised strictly.

Quang Ninh province is responding to the epidemic in a quite methodical and effective manner which should be consulted and applied by other localities. Many areas are locked down. Traceability activities have been carried out very quickly, along with zoning off and sampling on a large scale.

Up to now, Quang Ninh has traced more than 65,000 cases from F1 to F4. The esting capacity of the province has also been raised to 30,000 samples per day. On the other hand, quarantine capacity has also improved, while in Ha Long, Dong Trieu, Cam Pha, Uong Bi, the isolation capacity was prepared for 10,000 people.

The COVID-19 epidemic response and prevention is not only the task of specialised agencies and governments at all levels, but also the responsibility of each citizen. The combination of everyone’s efforts is both needed and expected to soon localise and handle the outbreak.

People should minimise movement to localities, especially those where COVID-19 cases has been recorded; it is compulsory to wear a mask in public places; crowds in amusement and entertainment areas should be restricted in accordance with the health ministry’s 5K (in Vietnamese) message: Khẩu trang (face mask) – Khử khuẩn (disinfection) – Khoảng cách (distance) – Không tụ tập (no gathering) – Khai báo y tế (health declaration).

Notably, those already infected with COVID-19 or those who are F1, F2 need to proactively release their personal information and report their contacts so that authorities can take the appropriate measures. This is not only to protect themselves but also for the peace of the whole country in order that people can feel secure and welcome the approaching Lunar New Year.