The PM made the decision while chairing a Government meeting on Monday morning (July 27), discussing the urgent response needed due to several COVID-19 positive cases detected in Da Nang in recent days without a clear source of infection.
Previously, a 57-year-old Da Nang man was confirmed positive on July 25 to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, making him the first community infection with the outside source coming into the central city, after 99 consecutive days without any new community infection in the country.
Two other local infections, known as Patients 418 and 420, were confirmed later, forcing Da Nang to urgently carry out social distancing measures as well as localising and containing the outbreak. One in Quang Ngai province was also among the four community transmissions of COVID-19 after visiting Da Nang.
However, as the situation becomes more complex, PM Phuc stressed at the meeting the need for raising vigilance and taking strong measures to avoid being caught out by the COVID-19 epidemic.
Stating that the disease should not be spread in Da Nang and other localities, the government leader asked for not to be caught off guard nor be nervous against COVID-19.
He agreed on stricter social distancing for Da Nang, including compulsory mask wearing in public places and public transport, temporarily suspending non-urgent activities, reducing the concentration of workers, and stopping public passenger transportation activities, except for cases of officials on duties, shuttle buses for workers, experts and those are subjected for isolation, as well as minimising personal vehicles.
PM Phuc emphasised that containment measures must be applied in a quick and effective manner, with the joint participation of all forces to speed up tracing and testing on a large scale to effectively prevent the infection.
The PM also demanded the restructuring of the quick response force for better interdisciplinary coordination to support Da Nang to deal with the urgent situation in the city, while soon finalising scenarios for coping with COVID-19 there.
The health sector was asked to continue carrying out plans to build concentrated isolation areas, especially for Da Nang, while field hospitals should be prepared in case of any worse outbreaks.
The PM asked Da Nang as well as major cities to provide adequate essential goods and food for their citizens, especially enhancing the local capacity on face mask production.
Other localities throughout the country need to continue boosting the dual goals of resuming socio-economic development combined with COVID-19 prevention, PM Phuc added, urging the health sector to continue its review and the testing of all foreigners who entered Vietnam recently and coordination with other relevant authorities to carry out repatriation plans for Vietnamese citizens stranded abroad in accordance with the set policy.
Get ready to cope with any evolution of COVID-19
On the same day, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control convened a meeting under the chair of Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam, the head of the Steering Committee, to discuss mechanisms of infection, disease forecast and optimal solutions to cope with the outbreak in Da Nang.
Initial epidemiological investigation results show that all four infections are related to three Da Nang medical facilities – Da Nang Hospital, Da Nang C Hospital and the Orthopaedic and Physical Rehabilitation Hospital of Da Nang. The three hospitals are all located on one plot.
Soldiers from the 78th Chemical Battalion under the Military Region 5 Command disinfecting a hospital in Da Nang on Sunday night. (Photo: NDO/Anh Dao)
According to Acting Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long, his ministry has yet to determine the source of the community transmission in Da Nang.
He said that the virus genetic analysis results from the recently-infected patients showed that this is a new coronavirus strain emerging in Vietnam (previously Vietnam has discovered five different strains of SARS-CoV-2). This strain has a spread faster than the previously recorded strains. However, there is no evidence to determine whether the virulence of this virus has increased compared to the previous strains.
Long added that the exact source of infection remains unknown but it was possibly imported in early July and there may be other cases of infection.
He said that his ministry has worked closely with Da Nang and sent the best experts to the city to lend a hand in preventing the epidemic from spreading to the community, seeking the source of infection and providing treatment for local COVID-19 patients. Regarding the two severely ill local patients, known as Patients 416 and 418, their health indicators were relatively stable this morning.
Regarding the blockade of the Da Nang hospitals, the health ministry leader said the ministry would apply the same blockage as for the previous outbreak in the Hanoi-based Bach Mai Hospital, while supporting Da Nang at the maximum level to effectively organise isolation, tracing, treatment, testing, zoning and stamping out the current outbreak.
Experts at the meeting suggested that people who travel from Da Nang and in connection with the outbreak in the city must practice self-isolation for 14 days upon returning and be put under close monitor as close contacts of COVID-19 patients. For others returning from Da Nang, they should carry out a health declaration and health self-monitor.
It is necessary to expand testing on a large scale to quickly detect and extinguish outbreaks, they said, adding that these measures should not only apply to Da Nang but also in other localities to strictly monitor suspected cases, while strengthening epidemiological control at medical facilities. Tightening the management over borders, trails, and immigration is also another urgent task, they said.
Deputy PM Dam stressed the need to promote previous experience in disease prevention and control, especially experiences in handling large outbreaks like at Bach Mai Hospital.
Not only Da Nang, but all provinces and cities must now strengthen the review of patients showing signs of COVID-19 symptoms while visiting hospitals and clinics, as well as strictly control foreigners' entry.
He urged the Ministry of Health to deploying COVID-19 tests with assorted test kits manufactured in Vietnam, while ensuring adequate test kits, medical equipment and other necessary conditions are ready to cope with the evolution of the epidemic.
Fighting against COVID019 is like fighting a fierce battle but all should be calm while ensuring socio-economic stability, he stated.