Southern provinces apply stricter prevention measures amid worsening situation hinh anh 1An empty street at 6:15pm in HCM City. The city has imposed a stay-at-home order from 6pm to 6am (Photo: VNA) 
HCM City (VNS/VNA) - Deputy Minister of Health Do Xuan Tuyen has urged southern provinces to tighten prevention measures to curb the spread of the virus amid the worsening COVID-19 situation.

Speaking at an online meeting with the four southern provinces of Ben Tre, An Giang, Soc Trang and Tien Giang on July 27, Tuyen said the situation required more “drastic measures”.

The provinces must set up pandemic checkpoints not only between provinces but also between districts and communes in each province, he said.

“Ben Tre, An Giang, Soc Trang and Tien Giang provinces have implemented social distancing under Directive 16 for nine days. However, only pandemic checkpoints at provincial borders have been set up, and there were no checkpoints between districts and communes in each province.”

The number of cases is expected to continue to rise even after social distancing, according to Tuyen.

In Soc Trang Province, as of July 27 the number of infections had increased to 144 from the first case in July 4.

An Giang Province had recorded 175 cases as of July 27 with more than 110 cases recorded within the past three days.

Tuyen urged the province to enhance the tracing of contacts of COVID patients and increase testing capacity.

Tien Giang Province has recorded more than 2,052 cases since June 5, with 32 deaths and 231 people having recovered. All 11 districts and towns in the province have detected cases. 

The province has recorded 200 cases a day recently, up from 30 cases a day in early June. 

Ben Tre has detected 585 cases since July 3 with eight out of nine districts and towns in the province detecting cases.

The provinces, most of which have used half of the centralised quarantine bed capacity, will need to expand these facilities to meet an increase in cases. 

Tien Giang is the only province that has allowed F1 cases (close contacts of COVID patients) to isolate at home, with more than 1,300 F1 cases isolating at home now, according to the provincial authorities.

Treatment categories

The southern provinces are classifying COVID-19 patients according to symptoms, from asymptomatic to mild to moderate and critically ill cases, as guided by the Ministry of Health. 

For example, Tien Giang has six field hospitals with a capacity of 3,160 beds, of which 2,900 beds are for asymptomatic cases, 200 beds for mild and moderate cases, and the remaining 60 beds for critically ill patients. 

The province has established an 80-bed Intensive Care Centre (ICU) which will open today (July 28).

In Soc Trang, COVID patients will be treated at four field hospitals, which will classify Covid-19 patients in the same way. The province plans to open a 150-bed treatment area next week, increasing treatment capacity to more than 600 beds with 40 beds for treating severe cases. 

The four provinces have been allocated about 395,000 vaccine doses for three vaccination rounds, with more than 50 percent of the total doses completed. They are about to start the third round of vaccinations.

Tuyen also recommended that southern provinces strengthen testing capacity to quickly detect infections for purposes of zoning, tracing and blockade.

For provinces under social distancing under Directive 16, at least 50 percent of workers in industrial zones must be tested for COVID, instead of 20 percent as normal, he said.

Tuyen also ordered the four provinces to improve isolation capacity with at least 10,000 beds per province. The provinces must prepare for a plan to isolate F1 cases at home as guided by the Ministry of Health. 

With the number of cases expected to increase rapidly, Tuyen asked provinces to have at least 5,000 treatment beds, with at least 100 ICU beds in each province. 

The ICUs should be placed at provincial general hospitals, which will be connected with the professional council of the Ministry of Health, and to field hospitals or lower-level hospitals.

Tuyen said the Ministry of Health would ensure supply of medical equipment to provinces.

Following HCM City, other provinces in the Southwest region such as Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Dong Nai, Tien Giang, Long An, Vinh Long, Kien Giang, Ben Tre, Bac Lieu and others, have begun imposing strict stay-at-home measures.

People in these provinces are no longer permitted to go out, and all activities, except for medical emergencies or COVID-19 coordination efforts, are banned from 6pm until 6am the following day. (Ben Tre will enforce the rule from 6pm to 5am).

Vehicles from other provinces that must pass through cities and provinces on national highways must not stop in those areas, under regulations of the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Health.

The southern provinces will also issue a paper that allows each household to buy food and essential items on even or odd days under various time frames in order to avoid gatherings in food stores or groceries./.