Vietnam must be cautious about mutated Omicron variant, say experts

15:33 29/11/2021

Although no Omicron cases have been reported in Vietnam, experts say the local health sector should be highly vigilant against the super-mutated variant that is spreading to a number of countries and territories globally.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Omicron is a new variant "of concern" after it was first reported in South Africa on November 24 and has since been identified in more than 10 countries and territories worldwide.

Assoc. Prof. & Dr. Do Van Dung at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Ho Chi Minh City described Omicron as a worrying mutated virus, although nobody knows exactly how dangerous it is.

“It’s assumed that Omicron is stronger than Delta – a SARS-CoV-2 variant that has caused a serious wave of COVID-19 in many countries and territories worldwide, but research is needed to clarify the assumption,” said Dung.

The WHO said it would take scientists a few weeks in order to fully understand the impact of the new variant, as scientists work to determine how transmissible it is.

Amidst new threats, a number of countries around the world have now decided to ban or restrict travel both to and from southern Africa.

Assoc. Prof. & Dr. Tran Dac Phu, former director of Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health, suggested that Vietnam should come up with specific solutions for people from these countries where the Omicron cases have been found.

“Steps must be taken to detect whether they have entered the community or not, thereby continuing to control the spread of the virus,” said Phu.

The country has also been requested to assess the spread of the mutated Omicron variant, the likelihood that it is resilient to the vaccine, and take measures to limit its community risk.

Sharing the view, Assoc. Prof. & Dr. Nguyen Viet Hung, vice president of the Hanoi Association for Infection Control, suggested Vietnam should speed up vaccinations for all people and continue to implement the Health Ministry’s 5K message in a bid to better protect people from virus infection.

“The country should strengthen surveillance and closely monitor genetic modification of imported strains to hammer out appropriate prevention measures,” Dr. Hung said, adding that prevention is better than cure.

“It will be complicated and dangerous if the new variant is recorded in Vietnam,” he stressed.

So far Vietnam has not yet detected any case relating to the mutated Omicron variant.

The Ministry of Health has proposed that the Government consider temporarily suspending international flights both to and from countries in southern Africa, including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique.