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Vietnam chalks up five Covid fatalities

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The Ho Chi Minh City-based director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit noted that a huge amount of testing is being done. AFP

Vietnam chalks up five Covid fatalities

Two more people have died in Vietnam of Covid-19 related complications, bringing the tally to five fatalities, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son said on Sunday.

The latest deaths are an 86-year-old woman from Quang Nam province and an 83-year-old woman from Danang. Both had underlying health conditions.

The 86-year-old was suffering from chronic kidney failure and heart problems and was being treated at Danang Dermatology Hospital and then moved to Danang Hospital.

From July 18 she began to show signs of fever and was transferred to several other hospitals before finally slipping into a coma on August 1 while being treated at Hue Central Hospital.

On Sunday she stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at 5:30am. The cause of death was announced as acute respiratory failure, multi-organ failure with Covid-19 infection.

The 83-year-old woman who died had for six years suffered from degenerative joints and recently had gastric bypass surgery and was admitted to the Danang Department of General Medicine suffering from stomach pains.

On July 30, she began to suffer a fever and was found to be positive for Sars-COV-2, the coronavirus which causes Covid-19. She was immediately transferred into isolation.

In the early hours of Sunday morning she too fell into a coma and was pronounced dead at 5:45am.

Doctors have said the cause of death was acute coronary syndrome, cholecystitis, polyarthritis, hypertension and Covid-19 infection.

Two people died of Covid-19-related complications on Friday and a third on Saturday. All five deaths have occurred to patients with serious health conditions.

The first patient who died was a 70-year-old man who appeared to have contracted the virus in Danang, the official Vietnam News Agency reported.

This leaves Cambodia and Laos as the only ASEAN countries to not register a Covid-19 fatality.

The coastal tourism hub logged 82 new Covid-19 infections on Friday, the single biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases. Many of them were individuals who had been isolated since new community transmissions were first detected over the weekend.

Before the outbreak, Vietnam had not recorded any local transmission for close to 100 days and appeared to have emerged from the pandemic ahead of its Southeast Asia peers through a system of mass quarantine and testing.

With its borders closed to almost all foreigners since March, locals had lowered their guard about wearing masks and social distancing in public.

Many also redoubled their holidays around the country on discounted airfares and hotel rates offered by businesses trying to restart the pandemic-battered tourism industry.

Danang is now in the middle of a 15-day lockdown, with even takeaway food and drink services suspended. The authorities are also converting a stadium into a field hospital. Apart from this, all construction work has been halted with effect from Friday, local media reports said.

Resident Huynh Viet said the atmosphere in Danang was calm. “Initially, people panicked and bought up all the food they could,” the 32-year-old information technology professional told The Straits Times. “But after three days, they have calmed down and are now staying home.”

In a dispatch dated July 30, Danang People’s Committee deputy chairman Le Trung Chinh said the source of the outbreak has still not been identified.

Professor Guy Thwaites, the Ho Chi Minh City-based director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, a clinical and public health research organisation, praised Vietnam’s government for responding “quickly and decisively” to this outbreak.

He told The Straits Times: “They are tracking or have isolated more than 80,000 people and there is a huge amount of testing being done.

“The uncertainty rests in how far this has spread out in the community because it’s pretty clear the infection probably had been in Danang or the region for the last few weeks undetected.”

In the nearby tourist haunt of Hoi An, in Quang Nam province, a similar stay-home order is also in place.

In the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, nightlife essentially came to a halt from Friday with the closure of bars and clubs, and the suspension of festivals, fairs and non-urgent meetings.

Public gatherings of more than 30 people are banned, mirroring similar restrictions placed in the capital Hanoi earlier this week. Since the start of the pandemic, Vietnam has recorded 546 infections.

Police have ramped up efforts to ferret out foreigners and locals who have evaded the mandatory quarantine by entering Vietnam illegally. The country shares a porous border of over 4,500km with Cambodia, Laos and China.

“It’s extremely difficult to stop people coming in. And it’s very difficult for a country to isolate itself from a pandemic that is affecting the rest of the world,” said Thwaites. “This was almost inevitable.”

Despite the latest setback, Vietnam’s economy is poised to grow at around 2.8 per cent for the year if the global situation improves, the World Bank said on Thursday.

A less favourable external environment will still see it eke out a 1.5 per cent growth.

VIET NAM NEWS, THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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