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Dec 15, 2021 / 09:59

Covid-19 patients keep rising, Hanoi stays highly alert to Omicron threats

Hanoi's healthcare facilities are treating nearly 9,500 Covid-19 patients - a record number of patients since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the country early last year.

Covid-19 patients have been on the rise in Hanoi over the past weeks and Hanoi’s healthcare sector has urged local residents and authorities to impose stringent measures to stay highly alert to the emergence of the Omicron variant, although the strain has yet to be detected locally.

Director of the Hanoi’s Department of Health Tran Thi Nhi Ha reported that the city has kept recording an average of 700-900 patients, especially 1,000 cases on December 13, which is the first time that Hanoi's daily transmissions reached four digits since the start of the pandemic.

She said health care facilities in Hanoi, including makeshift medical stations, are treating nearly 9,500 Covid-19 patients - a record number of patients since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the country early last year.

 Arrivals are in turn tested for the novel coronavirus at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. Photo: Phan Cong

To tighten restrictions to localities, Hanoi People's Committee has asked local authorities to direct relevant forces to promptly launch mobile medical stations to receive, quarantine, manage and give treatment to Covid-19 patients following guidance from the city and Ministry of Health (MoH).

 Localities were allowed to make adjustments and supplementation to administrative measures in pandemic prevention at different levels, including the restrictions and suspension of non-essential services, including restaurants, and mass gatherings depending on the pandemic’s evolution.

Hanoi remains cautious about the Omicron variants and has been instructing health facilities to look for possible signs of the strain in suspected cases and advises the Government to suspend flights from countries having the variant.

Ha said that her department has issued an Omicron response plan guiding medical facilities to strengthen preventive measures in response to the emergence of a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

All passengers arriving in the city on international flights must have negative results for the variant in tests done within 72 hours of their departure for Noi Bai International Airport in the capital city.

 Surveillance and screening among people suspected to have Covid-19 in residential areas, offices, and production facilities will be strengthened. Besides, laboratories have been asked to speed up the genetic sequencing process to proactively detect any Omicron early.

Sharing with The Hanoi Times in a phone interview, Ha warned that the risk of Omicron penetrating and then spreading in Vietnam is very high. “Although it is not yet confirmed that Omicron would cause more severe Covid-19 conditions, it has been said the new variant is more transmissible than other strains, including the Delta variant, because it can be mutated,” Ha said.

 “It needs to pay special attention to stay alert as the highly-contagious strain could overload the capital city’s health sector, even the country’s healthcare system,” Ha stressed.

 She noted that the pandemic situation in Hanoi has been worsening since early October, and has soon reached 1,000 newly infected cases per day, not to mention the Omicron variant that is considered to be of higher transmissibility than Delta.

WHO designates Omicron a "variant of concern"

A Covid-19 patient is treated at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi. Photo: Ha Linh

Omicron, the latest Covid-19 variant identified in South Africa in late November and confirmed in more than 60 countries, has been labeled as a variant of concern by United Nations' health experts due to its large number of mutations and possible faster rate of infection.

According to the WHO, preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant of concern, as compared to other strains, such as Delta. The Omicron variant is more contagious than the Delta strain and reduces the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine, but causes less severe symptoms. The infections with the Omicron variant had only "mild" symptoms or almost no symptoms.

However, there remains not enough data to make a comprehensive assessment of the variant's virulence, the organization noted.

Nguyen Trong Khoa, the deputy director of the Department of Medical Examination and Treatment under the MoH, told The Hanoi Times that Vietnam should strengthen surveillance and testing for early detection of Omicron infections, promote Covid-19 vaccine coverage, strengthen the medical infrastructure to improve the response capacity in treatment. 

“People should enhance their vigilance and tighten Covid-19 prevention and control measures while the coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve in a complicated manner across the globe, especially following the recent emergence of the Omicron variant,” Khoa stressed.

He added that his ministry has dispatched an official document to chairpersons of people's committees of provinces and cities calling for strengthening the implementation of measures to prevent and control the Covid-19 pandemic as the country braces for the possibility of new cases caused by the Omicron variant.