Epidemiologists have warned that the country is at high risk of suffering from community infection from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after they were unable to trace the source of the outbreak at Bach Mai hospital, the country’s largest COVID-19 hotspot.
There have been a total of 233 confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide as of 06.00am on April 3, with 43 of them being closely linked with the ongoing outbreak at Bach Mai hospital in Hanoi.
The hospital notes that the infections were detected at its canteen, the Neurology Department, the Center for Tropical Diseases, and the National Heart Institute.
Wearing face masks is compulsory for any residents wishing to go out
However, it remains unclear how groups of patients were exposed to the epidemic in the first place, though the Ministry of Health assumes that the sources of infection originate from logistics service providers, in addition to the relatives and caregivers of patients.
With the exception of two nurses who became the first inpiduals from the site to be confirmed to have contracted the disease, all of the hospital’s medical workers have since tested negative for the virus.
Most notably, the epidemiologists failed to find clues regarding the two female nurse’s source of infection, with none of the patients who came into close contact with the pair testing positive for the virus.
Experts warn that losing track of the COVID-19’s chain of transmission means the risk of infection spreading within the community is very high.
Dr. Truong Huu Khanh, Head of the Infection - Neurology Department of the Children's Hospital No1 in Ho Chi Minh City, believes that the country is now entering stage three of the epidemic with COVID-19 cases now being among the wider community.
It is therefore highly likely that many citizens will be exposed to virus infection, with many coming into close and direct with infected cases, he said.
Following the confirmation of the first positive COIVD-19 case at the site, Bach Mai hospital discharged approximately 5,000 patients and their relatives to local hospitals throughout northern and central provinces.
In an effort to halt the infection spreading among the public, localities have been scrambling to trace and quarantine patients and relatives from the hospital, along with those who they came into direct contact with.
The need to stop the potential spread of the COVID-19 has prompted the government to impose a 15-day social distancing measure which began on April 1, with all people requested to remain indoors as much as possible. One of the partial aims of the policy is to prevent healthy people from coming into direct contact with unknown COVID-19 cases.
Doctors believe that the following two to four weeks will be crucial in deciding if the nation is able to prevent and bring the epidemic under control.
If the implemented social distancing measures are followed and people strictly go along with health recommendations such as wearing face masks and frequently washing hands with soap, then there will be no possibility of the virus being transmitted from one person to another, Dr Khanh notes.