WHO Việt Nam stresses increased genome sequencing, vaccination in dealing with Omicron

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A COVID-19 shot is being prepared by a health worker in Nam Định Province on December 8, 2021. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — The WHO Representative in Việt Nam Dr Kidong Park has offered recommendations to the country in face of the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and has been reported in countries and territories worldwide.

Though Việt Nam has yet to record any infection related to the new variant, the Health Ministry said the risk of its entry and transmission in the country was very high.

In an interview recently granted to Vietnam News Agency, Park highlighted the need to prepare for possible transmission cases, strengthen the medical system and mitigate the disruptions of socio-economic and healthcare activities.

He said Việt Nam should consider several actions such as enhancing inspection over genome sequencing of circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants and sending complete genome sequences and relevant data to existing public databases such as the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

He emphasised the high coverage rate of vaccinations and the implementation of the 5K message: Khẩu trang (face masks) – Khử khuẩn (Disinfection) – Khoảng cách (Safe distance) – Không tập trung (No gathering) – Khai báo y tế (Health declaration), saying it was important that all vulnerable groups, including medical staff and the elderly were fully vaccinated.

He proposed Việt Nam continue improving medical and public health care capacity to ensure a smooth combination of in-patient care, from initial to intensive care, as well as managing the increase in infection cases.

Việt Nam needs to provide accurate, timely and transparent information for the public and international community about its fight against the pandemic, he said.

The WHO will continue working closely with the Vietnamese Government toward helping the country “safely live with the virus” for the long term, even when other outbreaks possibly occur in the future. The support will also cover protecting vulnerable groups and preventing overload in medical services, he added.

The WHO has declared B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern and named it Omicron. As of December 8, as many as 50 countries in six regions had reported the emergence of the variant. Initial reports showed that it caused milder symptoms but it remains too early to confirm.

Regarding the risk of reinfection, Park said the information remained limited and more would come in the next days or weeks.

He also said that WHO was working with technical partners to learn about Omicron’s potential impact on vaccines and testing methods, including Realtime RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing. — VNS

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