HANOI: Vietnam's recent COVID-19 outbreak in the central city of Danang, which led to more than 200 cases and eight deaths, appears to have started early in July, the government said on Tuesday (Aug 4), 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.
Vietnam has registered 670 COVID-19 cases in total, with eight deaths as of Tuesday.
The countryhad gone 100 days without community transmission until the virus resurfaced on Jul 25 in Danang. More than 200 people have since been infected, with the majority in Danang.
The coronavirus 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 have been placed on lockdown. A government spokesman on Monday said Vietnam does not plan to have a nationwide lockdown.
SHORTAGE OF RAPID TEST KITS
On Tuesday, Hanoi said it lacked the rapid testing kits needed to continue mass screening of cases amid the new outbreak.
Most of Tuesday's new cases were linked to Danang, the health ministry said, adding there were more than 133,000 people undergoing quarantine, about 80 per cent of those in their homes.
More than 88,000 people have returned to Hanoi from Danang since Jul 8, but only 70,689 were tested, authorities said, with two positive cases.
The gap is due to a shortage of rapid testing kits used to screen thousands of residents at a time, according to state media.
Hanoi medical institutions and hospitals have been assigned to boost testing capacity.
Rapid tests can diagnose a blood sample in minutes but are prone to inaccuracies. They are used to identify potentially positive cases that are confirmed using the more accurate, swab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
Phan Quoc Viet, chairman of PCR test kit manufacturer Viet A Corp, said he was not concerned about stocks.
"Vietnam is not short of COVID-19 test kits," Viet told Reuters. "We have enough for 2 million PCR tests and are willing to provide enough kits for the country to conduct a widespread testing programme."