Vietnam warns of hospitals strain as COVID-19 cases spike after holiday

Vietnam takes steps to prevent the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hanoi
Medical specialists wearing protective hazmat suits take a swab sample to test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from a woman repatriated from Singapore at a military base in southern Mekong delta Dong Thap province, Vietnam August 8, 2020. REUTERS/Mai Nguyen

HANOI, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Vietnam warned on Thursday that its healthcare system could become overloaded, after seeing a surge in new daily coronavirus infections following its week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

The Southeast Asian country reported nearly 24,000 new cases on Wednesday, compared to about 15,000 per day in the week before the annual holiday, when millions of people travelled to their rural homes and to tourist hotspots.

"Increased travelling will lead to the risk of more infections among the community, including the risk of spreading the Omicron variant," the health ministry said in a statement.

"If not better controlled, the number of serious cases will increase, putting pressure on the healthcare system and causing unwanted deaths."

Domestic airlines added extra night flights during the holiday as the biggest airports were jammed with travellers, according to a separate government statement.

After being lauded for its measures in containing the virus through mass testing and strict contact-tracing in the first year of the pandemic, Vietnam was hit badly by a wave of infections and deaths from May last year, prompting a scramble to procure vaccines.

At the time, with state hospitals overstretched, the government appealed to private hospitals to treat coronavirus patients. read more

Vietnam has since recorded 2.4 million infections overall and more than 38,000 deaths. About three-quarters of the 98 million population have been vaccinated.

The country on Monday began reopening schools nationwide after prolonged closure, as authorities announced plans to start vaccinating young children against COVID-19. read more

Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor

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