Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) authorities are testing arrivals from three major airports in the north (Noi Bai in Hanoi, Van Don in Quang Ninh province and Cat Bi in the northern port city of Hai Phong) as tens of thousands of passengers are returning after the Lunar New Year holiday.
According to the HCMC Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of February 14, some 200 samples had been taken each day for testing on a random basis at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) in HCMC.
The move is part of the city’s effort to monitor community transmission cases. Four hospitals, including Nguyen Tri Phuong, Ear Nose and Throat, Hung Vuong, and Traditional Medicine, have participated in the screening.
Since February 11, the city has also tested people considered at high-risk of contracting the virus at bus stations, wet markets and some rental housing units in order to monitor the risk in the community.
In addition, the HCMC CDC has been conducting testing at hospitals across districts since September 15.
To ensure safety for passengers at SGN, airport staff must be tested one day before their working shifts.
More than 1,600 families of employees of the Vietnam Airport Ground Services Co Ltd (VIAGS) have also been asked to test, as of February 10.
The main cluster of cases at the airport was related to VIAGS.
According to the HCMC-based Hospital for Tropical Diseases, the virus strain (A.23.1) associated with the SGN airport outbreak was first found in the African country of Rwanda in late October.
This is the first time that the Rwanda variant has appeared in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. It is not the highly contagious UK variant (B.1.1.7) or the variant detected in South Africa.
The Rwanda variant has been discovered in a few other countries such as the US, the UAE, Australia, and several countries in Europe, including the UK and Denmark. However, no “abnormal developments” have been reported in those countries.
Based on an analysis, experts believe the Rwanda variant is likely to have infected the staff at SGN airport through cargo flights.
HCMC Pasteur Institute director Dr Phan Trong Lan said: “The most likely hypothesis is that the strain originated from cargo flights from the United Arab Emirates.”
VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK