Has Vietnam dropped its strict mask mandate?
Vietnamese have visibly been going out without face masks over the past weeks. At the Nguyen Hue Walking Street in Saigon, dozens of people don’t wear masks anymore, seemingly forgetting that Vietnam has yet to declare an end to the pandemic. The same scenario is happening across the country.
However, just last week, the Ministry of Health reiterated the importance of face masks in COVID-19 prevention and control. Its new V2K message — vaccines, khau trang (face mask), khu khuan (disinfection) — replaces the stringent 5K rule, which was implemented during Vietnam’s biggest outbreaks. Even the Ministry of Tourism has repeatedly emphasized that tourists traveling around the country must comply with the face masks mandate when in crowded places.
But according to Dr. Do Hong Minh from Hanoi-based medical examination and treatment center Mediplus, the situation has gotten so much better now and COVID-19 is “no longer as dangerous” as it was in the past two years.
“The current situation is much better, the rate of people suffering from serious and dangerous symptoms is low. It’s no longer dangerous,” he said.
The number of new coronavirus cases in Vietnam has been in consistent decline since the start of June, averaging 699 cases daily. No recent COVID-related deaths have been recorded since June 12.
“Of course, COVID-19 is still a threat to people’s health. But it has now become more of a common disease. Hospitals and clinics have already abandoned previous health declaration procedures,” he explained.
“People going out without masks are either careless or are confident of the effect of the vaccines. Although it’s still recommended to wear face masks, monitoring is now really flexible.”
The vaccination rate in the country is among the world’s highest. As of June 26, Vietnam has already fully vaccinated 77.8 million people, accounting for 80.7% of its total population. Nearly 70 million people have already gotten their third dose, while the inoculation of a fourth dose is now underway.
While new outbreaks from virus mutations can’t be fully ruled out, Dr. Do is confident that Vietnam can handle it, given how it has pulled through its worst outbreak in the second quarter of 2021.
“With all the experiences and advanced technologies, Vietnam doesn’t need to worry too much. Mutations can be unpredictable. But as I see it, the future here is quite secure.”
He, however, said that the country should increase vigilance over rising dengue fever cases. The health ministry reported around 77,000 dengue fever cases from January to the present. There have been 30 deaths from dengue fever so far.