Vietnam confines largest city before advance of Covid-19 delta variant

By Eric San Juan

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jul 9 (EFE).- Vietnam, one of the countries that best survived the first year of the pandemic, began the confinement Friday of its most populated metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, to curb its latest Delta variant Covid-19 outbreak.

The measure comes as the country reached 1,314 infections, its highest daily number, two thirds of them in the old Saigon, with a population of 13 million inhabitants.

The measures, in force for the next 15 days, oblige the population to stay at home except for essential activities, prohibit the gathering of more than two people in public spaces, with a minimum distance of two meters between them, and shut down public transport.

Only businesses considered essential will be allowed to open, with the maximum presence of 30 percent of workers and all those citizens who are going to leave the city must present a negative PCR test and serve a seven-day quarantine.

The Wednesday announcement of restrictions caused people to flock to supermarkets, despite the fact that they will remain open during confinement, and collapsed the exits of the city, with thousands of people trying to escape to surrounding provinces.

Today, the landscape is very different in the city, with little traffic and with police deployed at different points to prevent citizens from leaving for non-essential reasons.

Measures are taken after more than a month of lax social distancing in which only entertainment venues and restaurants closed and in which many citizens continued to go to their work centers normally.

At that time, authorities launched a massive testing campaign throughout the city with the aim of carrying out 5 million tests for the virus between Jun. 26 and Jul. 5.

Despite being unable to control the outbreak, with numerous cases of the contagious delta variant, Vietnam continues to be one of the countries that have best resisted Covid-19, with 21,560 infections and 104 deaths in total since the beginning of the pandemic.

Experts said the irruption of the delta variant, which is much more contagious, has been the key to the loss of control over the Vietnam pandemic, which has kept its borders closed to tourism since March 2020.

“The only thing that has changed are the variants,” Dr. Ali Mokdad, head of strategy for the Department of Population Health at the University of Washington, in Seattle, told EFE, adding that the population of that area of Southeast Asia had some immunity against the first variants of the coronavirus.

“It is as if the body says‘ I have seen something similar, let me try to fight it, “adds the expert, who acknowledges that the theory has not been proven in field studies.

With the trackers overwhelmed by the multiple sources of infection, vaccination is emerging as the only long-term way out, but the pace is slow, with only 3.7 million inhabitants partially vaccinated and 241,000 with the full dose for a total population of 97 million.

The Health Ministry, which in recent weeks tries to speed up inoculations, announced Friday that the goal is to vaccinate 50 percent of the adult population before the end of the year and 70 percent by the first quarter of 2022.

On Wednesday, 97,000 vaccine doses of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer arrived in the country, a small part of the 31 million that the Hanoi government has ordered, while this weekend the arrival of 2 million doses of Moderna is scheduled.

So far, the country has received some 6 million doses, the majority from the Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca through the COVAX program, which favors the supply of vaccines to countries with fewer resources.

The pace is expected to pick up from September, as orders arrive from different companies and production begins for a local manufacturer, Nanogen, which is scheduled to finish its testing phase in August. EFE


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