Ho Chi Minh City, the epicentre of the country’s prolonged COVID-19 outbreak, is taking drastic actions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus and getting its ailing economy back on track after September 30.
The southern city has missed its September 15 deadline to bring the latest outbreak under control according to a Government resolution as the infection rate remains high. Statistics indicate that its daily caseload hovered between 5,000 and 6,000 from August 21 to September 15, with this figure even rising to nearly 8,500 on September 3.
A challenging period
To slow the spread of the mutated strain of the Delta variant, the city has accelerated its vaccination rollout, considering it as the key to keeping the current outbreak in check. To date, a total of 92% of people aged 18 and above have received their first vaccine dose, and 23.5% of them have been fully vaccinated against the virus.
With strong personnel and material support from ministries and localities, COVID-19 prevention and control efforts have paid off, with the virus being gradually brought under control. As a result, 60% of populated areas have become ‘green’ zones, areas without infection, and the daily death toll has fallen to approximately 200 from more than 300 a few weeks ago.
Most notably, the districts of Can Gio and Cu Chi, along with District 7 have been the first to contain the outbreak and have therefore entered a new normal status under a pilot scheme.
According to Pham Van Mai, chairman of the municipal administration, these encouraging results serve as the prerequisite for the southern metropolis to fully control the outbreak.
“In the city, we have received strong support from local people and the business community, a very important factor in winning the battle,” the Mayor says.
After missing its September 15 deadline, the city has asked the Government for permission to extend its COVID-19 prevention measures for an additional two weeks until September 30, aiming to curb the outbreak.
Le Hai Binh, deputy head of the Party Central Committee’s Information and Education Commission, says the remaining days until September 30 will be a pivotal period of time, and local people’s co-operation is the decisive factor.
“Whether or not Ho Chi Minh City will win the battle greatly depends on how new measures are implemented along with local people’s support and co-operation,” says Binh.
A new normal status in force after September 30?
The leadership of Ho Chi Minh City maintains that the outbreak cannot be contained overnight and local people will have to live with the virus in the long run. However, a decrease in daily infection numbers has therefore shown that the COVID-19 fight in the city is moving in the right direction.
The prolonged COVID-19 outbreak, which initially started in late April, has caused the local economy to come to a grinding halt, with experts stating that the city cannot close its economy any longer.
Nguyen Van Nen, party secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee, shares this view, saying the city needs to re-open its economy gradually and at the same time to protect local people’s health.
“Areas that have already controlled the virus can enter the new normal status… Those areas that are yet to meet criteria should work harder towards the common goal,” notes the city’s top leader.
Together with the reopening of services in three districts of 7, Can Gio and Cu Chi, the city is resuming wholesale markets and construction projects. Tens of thousands of vaccinated shippers are also hitting the streets, as the city’s tempo of life is gradually returning to normal.
For local people, they expect the city to enforce the new normal status after the September 30 extended deadline.
“We do hope the outbreak will be soon controlled and this will the last social distancing order,” says a local resident.
The COVID-19 fight in Ho Chi Minh City is showing positive signs as ‘green’ zones on its COVID-19 map are being expanded. With strict measures in place, local residents believe the city will soon control the virus and gradually reopen its economy as planned.
The HCM City administration has mandated that construction works in low-risk COVID-19 infection areas could resume after September 30 if they meet safety requirements.
After nearly three months of social distancing, the conditions to loosen anti-pandemic measures to some extent are being discussed so that localities, businesses and people can feel more comfortable.