Abundant precaution: HCM City steps up COVID preventive measures
HCM CITY— There have been no more cases of COVID-19 in HCM City since one person was diagnosed with it at Tân Sơn Nhất Airport in February, but the city Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health said the risk of an outbreak remains high.
The risk is from a number of different sources, according to the centre.
HCM City has many major hospitals that admit patients from other provinces and cities who cannot be treated in their hometown, and so they are crowded with patients and their relatives.
Chợ Rẫy Hospital, for instance, admits nearly 6,000 patients from elsewhere each day.
Speaking at a meeting with a city inspection team led by the chairman of the People’s Committee, Nguyễn Thành Phong, on May 10, Dr Nguyễn Tri Thức, the hospital chief, said Chợ Rẫy faced a high risk of COVID transmission.
The biggest threat was in its emergency ward which admits around 350 patients daily, he said.
To ensure safety, the hospital tests all patients who have symptoms related to the respiratory tract like cough and fever for COVID.
Those coming without relatives are presumed to be COVID patients, and the medical staff strictly comply with preventive measures.
The hospital also requires everyone to fill an online health declaration form when entering.
It has nearly 200 staff standing in for patients’ relatives to give care, and they are also regarded as a transmission risk, and the management keeps them under close surveillance and tests them for COVID.
Phong instructed the hospital to prepare scenarios for admitting a large number of very sick patients simultaneously.
People’s Hospital 115, another major medical centre, admits nearly 3,000 patients daily. It has set up a COVID screening area well away from the rest of its facilities to reduce the risk of transmission.
Speaking at a meeting of the city Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control on Monday, Phong said the risk of transmission in the city’s numerous quarantine facilities is very high, and threatens community spread if preventive measures are not carried out scrupulously. “People there should strictly comply with protocols to prevent transmission.”
Authorities should monitor the health of people who have returned from quarantine facilities since they could still spread infection despite testing negative for COVID three times, he said.
“Each district needs to maintain one quarantine area with at least 20 beds expandable to 50 beds within 24 days.”
Pointing out the city has more than 19,000 community-based COVID-prevention teams, he said local health officials should utilise them to detect illegal immigrants and contact trace people who come into close contact with patients.
High risk at ports
Speaking at a meeting between the Department of Health, Maritime Administration of HCM City and other relevant agencies last week, Dr Nguyễn Trí Dũng, head of the city Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the transmission risk at ports is not unlike at the airport.
The city has one airport and nearly 60 ports.
Foreign ships that arrive after docking in other countries could have infected crew members, he warned.
Ships should be regarded as quarantine areas, and there should be strict surveillance of people entering and leaving them, and all people should comply with preventive measures and fill health declaration forms, he added.
Ngô Quang Hưng, deputy director of the Maritime Administration of HCM City, said close collaboration between agencies and enterprises operating at ports and border guards is imperative to keep an eye on people embarking and disembarking from ships.
Ports that fail to adopt COVID prevention measures should not be allowed to dock ships, he said.
Nguyễn Tấn Bỉnh, head of the department, said three crew members of the MD SUN that docked at Phước Long Depot No.5 in Nhà Bè District tested positive for the disease.
Phong said COVID prevention teams should strengthen communication to help limit contacts between ship crews and people living around ports and depots.
He instructed the Department of Health to build field hospitals with 5,000 beds to prepare for a scenario where 30,000 are infected as required by Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính.
The city has sufficient test kits for 15,000 samples within 24 hours if needed.
The city has modelled various COVID scenarios, and four more quarantine areas with a total of more than 10,000 beds are being built now. VNS