But it’s also a time for unity and social responsibility.

More than a year since SARS-CoV-2 was first found in Vietnam, the country is now facing the fourth wave of the pandemic,  with the number of cases reported each day much higher than in previous waves.

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Healthcare staff test those possible contacts with the COVID-19 cases related to a church in Go Vap District, HCM City. VNA/VNS Photo

In the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed the courage and determination of the healthcare staff and all those who fight the pandemic. We’ve seen the images of doctors, nurses and healthcare staff drenched in sweat as a result of wearing PPE for many hours. We’ve seen them working hard in all quarantine areas. We’ve seen them exhausted and faint. We’ve seen their little children cry from missing them for months.

But what else have we seen in those images? Unity.

At the time of crisis, the Government’s responsibility is to make decisions that lead the way. But other institutions like the healthcare system, social organisations, corporations, and the public, also make decisions that profoundly affect the communities around them.

Bac Giang and Bac Ninh provinces became pandemic hotspots after the virus was discovered in several industrial parks employing thousands of workers. Almost 30,000 healthcare staff from other provinces and cities were either dispatched or registered to go there to help out. They work day and night taking test samples or in field hospitals set up quickly to treat COVID-19 patients.

Authorities in localities took aggressive decisions when they had to. For instance, the people’s committee of Vinh Phuc Province decided to implement tough measures at industrial parks very early, with testing for all workers and limits on the travel of workers and foreign experts in and out of the area.

These tough measures provoke strong reactions from businesses, yet the province’s leaders insisted their choice was correct, saying that they would prioritise the health of the community.

Many firms in Da Nang City, responding to the call of the authorities, cancelled events that they had invested millions of dong in, for the safety of the community.

Many people in the community haven't just stood and watched the health experts do their bit, they've stepped in to help in many ways. Medical students are either mobilised or volunteer to go to the hotspots to help, many people make donations to buy protective gear and testing kits, while others cook and send free meals and drinks for the frontline fighters. 

Violations, still

Public engagement in the COVID-19 response is crucial, and it is particularly important since the effectiveness of measures like masking or social distancing requires co-operation and trust from all people in society.

In fact, a lack of community responsibility can be the source of complications.

HCM City authorities said that in the last cluster in the city related to a Christian church in Ward 3, Go Vap District, the first patient of the cluster did not go for a check-up when they had COVID-19 symptoms. Only when their condition got worse did they go to the hospital.

 

Investigations also revealed that during gatherings, which took place in small rooms, members of the church didn’t wear masks. Thirty-two out of 38 members of the group have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“The most worrisome thing about the pandemic in HCM City is not about the increasing number of cases – it is the lack of responsibility of many individuals that could lead to the spread of the virus among the community,” said Duong Anh Duc, vice chairman of HCM City’s People’s Committee.

Bac Giang and Bac Ninh authorities in the past few days have levied hundreds of fines for anti-pandemic regulations violations, including gatherings in large groups, pretending to transport charity goods to avoid health declarations and resisting and disobeying pandemic control forces.

In Da Nang, police on Saturday arrested two people for attempting to bring foreign people to Vietnam illegally.

On Saturday, the police of Buon Ma Thuot City found a karaoke bar, the was still open despite the ban.

These are just a few examples of disobedience of anti-pandemic regulations and any of these could undermine all the efforts the whole country has been making in this fight for the past 30 days.

For Vietnam, the last month has been tense with an increasing number of cases and the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down.

The fourth wave of the pandemic has been harsh and in the early days, genetic sequencing of several COVID-19 patients revealed the presence of two common coronavirus variants from the UK and India. The UK variant is believed to be more transmissible than ordinary strains, while the Indian variant is both more transmissible and potentially less susceptible to neutralising antibodies of the immune system.

The situation is getting more complex still as on Saturday, the health ministry said a new coronavirus variant with characteristics from the existing Indian and UK variants had been detected in Vietnam for the first time.

While further studying of the new variant is required, Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long warned that it and other variants of the virus have made this fourth wave more complex, and possibly made the virus spread faster.

“It only takes one person to be negligent for the whole society to take the consequences,” Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said at the beginning of the fourth wave.

Staff at 175 laboratories nationwide are working at maximum capacity to get almost 66,000 samples tested a day. They’re working so hard to make sure no cases are missed and the pandemic doesn't spread at a rate that the health system can't stand. But this requires the co-operation of all people in the community.

Now is the time for unity, for the community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences. Yes, there are the leaders, there are medical experts. But governance and expertise alone are not enough. We are all in this together, and all our contributions are needed.

VNS

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