HCM City to respond to spread of now-dominant Omicron variant

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A medical worker takes a sample for COVID-19 testing in HCM City. — VNA/VNS Photo

HCM CITY — The HCM City health sector has been told to be well prepared to respond to the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 being the dominant strain in the city.

Nguyễn Văn Nên, secretary of the city Party Committee, said the city was seeing an increase in the number of infections among children, especially school-age children.

“With the Omicron being the dominant strain and students having returned to school for direct learning, it is not surprising to see the increase in the number of cases among children,” he said.

“Although the number of cases has increased across the country recently, including in HCM City, the number of severe cases and deaths remains low in the city.”

The number of children infected with COVID reached 1,500 from February 14 – 22, triple the previous week, according to the Health Department.

The health sector and the district authorities have been told to speed up the current vaccination campaign until the end of the month.

Children under 12 years old will be vaccinated as soon as instructed by the Ministry of Health, according to Nên.

“The ministry has licensed the domestic production of COVID treatment drugs,” he said. “Drugs and vaccines remain two key weapons against the spread of the virus.”

Direct learning could be suspended

Tăng Chí Thượng, director of the municipal Health Department, said the health sector would closely monitor the number of severe cases requiring hospitalisation among children.

He recommended direct learning be suspended if the number of severe cases reaches more than 100 cases a day. There are currently only five severe cases requiring hospitalisation among children every day.

The department has worked with pediatric specialists to discuss COVID treatment for children.

The department will provide training for medical staff in COVID treatment for children from mild to severe cases.

Teachers will also be trained to handle students who tested positive for COVID, especially to notice warning signs of severe cases.

Schools and families must get ready to vaccinate children aged 5 to 12 once instructed by the Ministry of Health.

Experts suggested the city continue allowing direct learning. Only those who are sick should stay at home for quarantine and treatment.

According to random testings from February 10 to 17, a total of 70 out of 92 samples that were sequenced were positive for the Omicron variant, accounting for 76 per cent, according to the Health Department.

Experts said the Omicron variant was likely to cause milder symptoms, but because it is highly transmissible, fully vaccinated people could still get it or be reinfected. This could result in more severe cases and hospitalisations, threatening the healthcare system.

The city must continue to protect the at-risk groups, including people aged 65 and above, people with underlying medical conditions, obese children and others.

The HCDC recommends people remain vigilant. In addition to the 5K practice, the HCDC said accelerating the injection of the additional or booster jabs will help people better protect themselves from the virus.

Rapid test kit prices on the rise

Pharmacies in HCM City have reported a shortage of COVID rapid test kits for sale in the past few days due to high demand, causing an increase in prices.

Some stores reported that they had sold out of rapid saliva test kits.

Pharmacies in Bình Thạnh and Phú Nhuận districts and Thủ Đức City said the price had increased by VNĐ5,000 – 10,000 per kit.

A pharmacy in District 4 sells Korean Humasis rapid test kits for VNĐ105,000 per kit, up from VNĐ95,000 a few days ago. “There has been a high demand for the past few days,” the pharmacy’s representative said.

Dr Phạm Hùng Vân, president of the Vietnam Medical Molecular Biology Association, recommended people buy test kits at reputable establishments.

Prof Đỗ Văn Dũng, dean of the School of Public Health at the HCM City University of Medicine and Pharmacy, recommended people buy test kits licensed by the Ministry of Health.

Saliva antigen rapid tests have been studied by countries around the world with results showing that the accuracy is less than in oropharyngeal sampling.

“Only people with nasal irritation who cannot take a sample from the nose should use saliva antigen rapid tests due to its low accuracy level compared to oropharyngeal sampling,” he said.

Under a recent regulation by the Ministry of Health, the maximum price of the COVID-19 testing service in case of payment of the Health Insurance Fund is VNĐ78,000 per test.

The city has recorded more than 522,000 infections since the fourth wave of the outbreak that began last April. More than 20,000 people have died of the virus in the city. — VNS

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