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Dec 20, 2021 / 13:07

Urgent response required against variant Omicron: PM

Amid the risk of the new variant Omicron emergence, Vietnam will prepare thoroughly for all scenarios.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on December 19 issued an official telegram, requesting increased vigilance as the Covid-19 pandemic’s evolution continues to be severe, with the emergence of the new and more contagious Omicron variant in the world.

The move comes as Omicron is gradually becoming a dominant variant in many countries, including those in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Cambodia.

According to scientists, Omicron (or B.1.1.529) variant, which was first identified by scientists in South Africa on November 24 and confirmed in 90 countries, has 32 mutations in spike glycoprotein and is the most mutated of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses. It is predicted to be more transmissible than the already highly transmissible Delta and reduces the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine, but causes less severe symptoms.

 Vaccination is seen as the best method for Vietnam to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. Photo: MoH

Vietnam has not recorded any case of Covid-19 with the new Omicron variant, however, the numbers of infections, patients in critical condition, and related deaths have still been on the rise, and the healthcare systems in some localities have become overloaded, the telegram said.

Facing that fact and the high possibility of recording Omicron in the country, Chinh asked the Ministry of Health (MoH) to instruct the healthcare system to strengthen surveillance in order to timely detect any abnormal signs of outbreak and find out any new variant early.

He has requested the MoH to keep a close watch over the pandemic situation caused by Omicron worldwide and keep frequent contacts with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) to get updates about this variant, so as to propose effective measures to cope with it.

Amid the risk of the new variant emergence, Vietnam should prepare thoroughly for all scenarios, the Government leader said, urging the public to follow Covid-19 prevention measures but without panicking or becoming overly anxious in the face of the Omicron variant.

Highlighting the need to provide sufficient vaccines and treatment drugs, he also urged boosting the study and transfer of production technologies with guaranteed safety and efficiency and putting people’s lives first.

Hanoi posted highest number of daily Covid-19 infections

Vietnam's capital city of Hanoi on December 19 recorded the highest number of new Covid-19 infections with 1,405, as the country posted a daily record high of 16,110 cases, according to the MoH.

Hanoi has seen its daily case count reach four digits for the fourth consecutive day since the start of the pandemic. The city again recorded the highest number of daily infections nationwide on Sunday, with the total number of people infected now at nearly 25,000.

Medical staff take samples for testing local residents in Thanh Xuan District of Hanoi. Photo: Thanh Binh

Chairman of the Hanoi People's Committee Chu Ngoc Anh has issued an urgent directive to strengthen the measures to prevent and control the pandemic ahead of new year holidays, in line with the MoH's proposal.

The Hanoi mayor has asked all districts and localities to halt unnecessary mass gatherings, entertainment activities, and festivals to ensure pandemic prevention during the incoming new year holidays due to recent surges in new Covid-19 cases in the city.

"People should only go to places with large gatherings when it's absolutely essential, avoid parties and reduce the number of people in meetings, especially in the coming times," the mayor said.

All districts' authorities must boost examination and strictly deal with those who break anti-pandemic rules during the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday.

Hanoi has also planned to set off high-altitude fireworks at one site only [Thong Nhat Park] on the upcoming Lunar New Year’s Eve.

This will be the second year in a row that the capital city will launch fireworks at just one site amidst the increasingly severe evolution of Covid-19 pandemic. On previous Lunar New Year’s eves, fireworks show was organized in all 30 districts and towns of the city.