Vietnam will enjoy a four-day break from September 1 to 4 to celebrate National Day. The long holiday will see millions of Vietnamese visiting their hometowns or tourist hotspots. The international airport in Ho Chi Minh City is expected to welcome an average of 120,000 passengers daily starting Thursday.
But while spirits are high, Vietnam has recently seen a surge of COVID-19 cases, especially in the southern metropolis. This has led the HCMC health department to issue an alert of a possible outbreak.
The city of 10 million has recorded more than 1,100 cases over the past week, 258 cases more than the previous week. The number is set to rise this week, with people crowding popular spots like the Nguyen Hue Walking Street and public parks.
Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, deputy director of the municipal Health Department, said on Sunday that the actual number of cases in the city could be higher, given the fact that Vietnam has already scrapped COVID-19 testing requirements upon arrival at all ports.
He further noted that people with COVID symptoms are also opting to test and treat themselves at home. Positive infections that are not reported to healthcare facilities aren’t added to the Ministry of Health’s official database for coronavirus.
Data also show that the number of severe cases in hospitals is also on the rise this month, with an average of 64 cases per day. More than 250 patients are being treated at city hospitals; 80 of them are severe cases requiring respiratory assistance. The highly contagious A.5 variant has become the dominant strain in the city.
Hospitals and healthcare facilities across HCMC are now tasked to secure they have enough human resources, medical equipment, and supplies to receive COVID-19 patients. It also plans to reactivate field hospitals in case of a continued hike in cases. The health department said the timely isolation of suspected cases remains the most vital strategy to limit the spread of the virus.
The HCMC Center for Disease Control also said this week that they would need to enhance surveillance to forecast the situation in the coming days.
“A combination of effective public health measures, behavior change, and vaccination are all needed to prevent transmission,” said deputy director Chau. “A lack of awareness, insufficient public health measures, and low coverage of booster shots have all contributed to a possible outbreak.”
As of this writing, Vietnam has already fully vaccinated more than 82% of its 97 million people. About 64% have received their COVID-19 booster shots.