Omicron response: HCMC imposes stringent inspections of foreign arrivals

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HCMC has started imposing more stringent inspections on foreign arrivals, especially those coming from places where the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus has been detected.

According to an Omicron response plan released Tuesday by the city administration, all passengers arriving in the city on international flights must have negative results for the variant in tests done within 72 hours of their departure for Vietnam. The city will also step up inspections at maritime borders.

Every arrival from places where Omicron, the B.1.1.529 Covid variant, has been detected must stay in centralized quarantine facilities, even if he/she has been fully vaccinated or has recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months. The quarantine period has not been specified.

The current regulation in force is that all foreign arrivals in Vietnam are allowed to isolate themselves at their places of accommodation if they have been fully vaccinated for the Covid-19 virus.

The plan says maritime security measures will be reinforced to prevent and detect early any case of illegal disembarkation; and that the city will also reinforce testing among those found to have illegally entered Vietnam recently.

Surveillance and screening among people suspected to have Covid-19 in residential areas, offices, and production facilities will be strengthened.

Laboratories have been asked to speed up the genetic sequencing process to proactively detect any Omicron early.

Any Omicron case confirmed will be isolated for treatment at the Covid-19 Field Hospital No.12 in Thu Duc City, which has been designated to receive Omicron cases only.

The Ministry of Health said last week that the risk of Omicron penetrating and then spreading in Vietnam was “very high.”

Though it is not yet confirmed that Omicron would cause more severe Covid-19 conditions, it has been said the strain is more transmissible than Delta and previous strains as it carries many mutations, said Tran Dac Phu, senior advisor at the Public Health Emergency Operations Center under the ministry.

It is necessary to stay alert because the highly contagious strain could overload the nation’s healthcare system, he said.

Omicron has been confirmed in around 60 countries and territories to date.