Vietnam’s Covid-19 situation has worsened over the past week, while events over the weekend in Ho Chi Minh City – the current epicentre of Vietnam’s fourth wave – were somewhat chaotic due to a lack of clarity on the next phase of the city’s response to containing the outbreak. City residents scrambled to buy supplies in anticipation of a city-wide blockade and a strict stay at home policy, likely creating a number of super-spreading incidents. We expect the worst has yet to come for HCMC and that the number of cases and fatalities will continue to spike in the coming days and weeks. Here is Access Asia’s Monday update on the situation in collaboration with Vietnam Weekly, a subscription-based publication covering current affairs in Vietnam.
On Friday morning, it was announced that a ‘stay in place’ lockdown would begin for HCMC at midnight Sunday. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh then said that this would last for at least two weeks, and military and additional police units would be mobilized to oversee food distribution and other logistics (last night this was named Directive 11). A set of photos soon emerged – two depicting armored personnel carriers on unidentifiable Vietnamese streets and another showing soldiers at an airport – made their way through chat groups with people seeming to believe that tanks were rolling into town. Almost 3,000 soldiers are reportedly being deployed to all 312 of HCMC’s wards and communes to help distribute welfare packages, go shopping for people and ensure social distancing compliance.
Perhaps appropriately, wartime language is being used, such as the city needing “to build each ward, commune and township; each agency, factory and enterprise to be a fortress for epidemic prevention and control,” while officials have called residents “soldiers” in the “battle” against Covid.
Late Friday night, chairman of the city People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong was “re-assigned” by the Politburo to a position in Hanoi. While no official reason was given, the obvious inference is that Hanoi is not happy with the city’s handling of the outbreak. Then, on Saturday morning, a complete lack of clarity helped create a city-wide potential superspreader event perfect for the Delta variant, with huge lines at supermarkets and pharmacies and massive crowds clearing out shelves in preparation of even a more strict lock-down beginning today. Here are some photos.
From the events over the weekend in HCMC, it seems likely that cases will continue rise in the coming days and weeks and that the government’s plan to have the situation under control in HCMC by Sept 15 seems unlikely. We believe the worst has yet come for HCMC.
Positively, however, is that vaccination numbers are increasing rapidly and now mobile vaccination teams will be deployed to do home vaccinations in high risk areas of HCMC. Yet, the pace of vaccinations will need to accelerate as clearly now it is a race against of time.
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