Omicron risk ‘very high’: Health Ministry

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The risk of Omicron penetrating, then spreading in Vietnam is “very high”, the Health Ministry warned.

In a letter sent to all 63 cities and provinces Monday, the ministry stated the pandemic situation has grown more complex in many countries, especially with the appearance of the mutated strain Omicron, or B.1.1.529 Covid variant, first sequenced in South Africa and designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a top Variant of Concern (VOC).

The WHO stated last week the variant had been detected in at least 38 countries and territories.

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

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

The ministry requested localities to keep strengthening Covid-19 prevention and control measures, boost vaccination for everyone from 12 years old, raise public awareness, as well as prepare enough medicines, medical oxygen, ventilators, and ICU beds.

Cities and provinces must also strictly monitor and isolate people arriving from places where Omicron has been detected.

All samples suspected to be infected with the new variant must be sent to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and Ho Chi Minh City Pasteur Institute for gene sequencing.

Working with the Ministry of Health last week, Kidong Park, the WHO representative in Vietnam, and John MacArthur, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Southeast Asia, said in order to prepare for Omicron, Vietnam should strengthen surveillance and testing for early detection of Omicron infections, promote Covid-19 vaccine coverage, strengthen the medical infrastructure, focusing on grassroots systems in order to improve the response capacity in treatment for when cases increase sharply and promote communication on Covid-19 prevention and control

Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said the ministry is closely coordinating with the WHO and the U.S. CDC in pandemic prevention and response to new strains.

He called all people to comply with regulations on pandemic prevention, cautioning against unnecessary confusion and worry.