Vietnam capital short of test kits as national coronavirus cases climb

Medical specialists take testing samples from local residents in a residential area in Danang, Vietnam on Aug 3, 2020.
Medical specialists take testing samples from local residents in a residential area in Danang, Vietnam on Aug 3, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI (REUTERS) - Vietnam reported 10 new Covid-19 infections and two deaths on Tuesday (Aug 4), lifting its total cases to 652, with eight dead, as the capital Hanoi said it was running short of the rapid testing kits being used to keep a new outbreak at bay.

Targeted testing and strict quarantining had helped Vietnam contain earlier outbreaks, but it is battling a new cluster of infections after going more than three months without detecting any domestic transmission.

The new outbreak has infected more than 200 people since July 25, the majority in the central city of Danang, but it has spread to at least eight other cities and provinces, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where entertainment venues are closed and gatherings restricted to prevent infections.

Danang and Buon Ma Thuot in the coffee-growing Central Highlands are on lockdowns. A government spokesman on Monday (Aug 3) there was no plan for a nationwide lockdown.  

The outbreak appears to have started early in July, the government said on Tuesday, amid concern the virus may have been spreading undetected earlier.

“After having conducted antibody tests on 5,000 samples collected from infected patients and their relatives, it can be concluded that the outbreak appears to have started in early July,” Dang Duc Anh, Director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology said in a government statement.

More than 88,000 people have returned to Hanoi from Danang since July 8, but only 70,689 were tested, the health ministry said. Only two of those were positive.

The gap is due to a shortage of rapid testing kits used to screen thousands of residents at a time, according to state media.

The health ministry said it would assign Hanoi medical institutions and hospitals to boost testing capacity.

The rapid test kits, which can diagnose a blood sample in minutes but are prone to inaccuracies, are used to identify potentially positive cases which are then confirmed with the more accurate, swab-based Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.

Mr Phan Quoc Viet, chairman of test kit manufacturer Viet A Corp, said he was not concerned about stocks.

“Vietnam is not short,” he told Reuters. “We have enough for two million PCR tests and are willing to provide enough kits for the country to conduct a widespread testing programme”.