Vietnam taps private hospitals as Delta-driven Covid-19 infections rise

Residents wait to be tested at a makeshift rapid testing centre near the Bach Mai hospital in Hanoi. - AFP

HANOI (Reuters): Vietnam's health ministry issued an urgent appeal on Friday (July 30) for private hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients as the South-East Asian country battles a surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

After successfully containing the virus for much of the pandemic, Vietnam has been facing record daily increases in infections since late April. The country has detected a total of 133,000 cases, 85% of which were recorded over the past month.

"The Covid-19 pandemic is evolving in a very complicated manner and is on a worsening trend in many cities and provinces," the health ministry said in a statement.

Private medical facilities should make their beds, equipment and manpower available to treat Covid-19 cases when assigned to do so by authorities, the statement added.

Vietnam has an additional 20,000 beds across 228 private hospitals in the country, according to health ministry data.

Vietnam had maintained a policy which required anyone who tested positive for the virus to be hospitalised at a state-run institution.

With cases rapidly rising and the capacity of state hospitals stretched, however, asymptomatic cases in virus epicentre Ho Chi Minh City have been permitted to isolate at home on a trial basis.

The rapid spread of infections has prompted authorities to impose strict movement restrictions in around one-third of the country, with both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City under lockdown.

In Vietnam's 17 southern provinces, all of which are also subject to movement curbs, dozens of temporary Covid-19 wards have been set up in re-purposed farms and factories.

Vietnam has reported 1,022 Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic began, although the true number could be slightly higher.

The state-run Tien Phong newspaper on Friday said the death toll in Ho Chi Minh City was 1,057, citing data from the city's centre for disease control.

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