5 COVID-19 infected patients test positive after recovery

On 24th April, 2 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Vietnam, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH), 1 day after the nationwide social distancing order was lifted.

On 25th April, 5 infected patients were discharged from the National Hospital Of Tropical Diseases. Also on the same day, health authorities identified 5 recovered COVID-19 patients who have been tested positive for the virus again.

These new changes bring the total number of infected cases in Vietnam to 270 to date, out of which only 45 cases are still under treatment.

2 new cases are both imported

2 newly imported cases, case 269 and case 270, are Vietnamese students who came back from Japan. They were quarantined upon arrival on 21st April.

The 160 passengers who boarded the same flight as these two patients were sent to a quarantine facility in Thai Binh Province the moment they landed at Van Don Airport.

These were Vietnam’s first new coronavirus cases after 8 days without newly detected infections.

However, the rise in new cases did not catch the local health authorities by surprise, as the country has been trying to bring back Vietnamese citizens who are stranded overseas.

The progress of COVID-19 in Vietnam to date

Vietnam had not reported any new cases for 8 days in a row, from 16th April to 24th April. The 2 new cases represent a very small rise in infections and since they are both imported, this indicates that the country’s early prevention measures can still be considered a success.

Vietnam COVID-19 growth
Source: Vietnam’s Ministry of Health

Out of the 270 confirmed COVID-19 cases,  83% of them have been discharged, and no death has been reported.

Vietnam COVID-19 growth
Source: Vietnam’s Ministry of Health

The more concerning development is that out of those who have been discharged, 5 patients tested positive for the virus again and were sent back into treatment.

Health experts concerned about relapses

The report of recovered patients – cases 36, 52, 137, 149 and 188 – being tested positive for the virus again brings about questions and concerns from citizens and health authorities about what it would take to contain the virus.

Cases 52, 137, and 149 were all tested negative for 3 times in a row, while the results of cases 36 and 188 came back positive on their 3rd test.

These patients, though representing only 2.2% of the country’s 225 discharged patients, illustrate several important issues regarding problems of infection control, diagnosis, and management of the coronavirus globally.

Vietnam MOH Deputy Minister
MOH’s Deputy Minister Nguyen Thanh Long expressed concern about a potential second wave of COVID-19 spread
Image credit: VPG News

In a recent briefing, Mr Nguyen Thanh Long, MOH’s Deputy Minister who is investigating the relapse cases, posited 3 scenarios.

The first scenario is that the infected patient might not have fully recovered, and the virus still exists in their system, especially in the lung mucosa cells.

Secondly, it is possible that the virus particles that are taken out of a recovered person’s system are dead, or no longer infectious.

The last possibility points to a patient’s lack of sufficient immunity against the virus.

“The virus from relapse cases will be collected and cultivated in Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and Pasteur Institute of Ho Chi Minh City for a fuller analysis. If the virus is not dead and still thriving, it shows that the patient has not fully recovered,” said Mr Nguyen Thanh Phong.

He also revealed that the MOH will conduct neutralizing antibodies tests on all patients treated for the coronavirus to see if the antibodies can defend the body systems from virus particles.

The government warned against asymptomatic cases

In a recent briefing on 25th April, Deputy Minister Vu Duc Dam strongly advised against being overly optimistic about the successful containment of COVID-19 at the moment, especially in the context of the virus’s unpredictable implications.

The virus has a long incubation period, so people might not know that they’re carrying and spreading the disease.

Besides the relapse cases, there are those who are infected but exhibit no symptoms of the disease. According to health authorities, every country, Vietnam included, is susceptible to potential community transmission.

Professor Tran Dac Phu
Professor Tran Dac Phu spoke during a briefing on 25th April
Image credit: VPG News

“40% of those who are infected with SARS-COV-2 do not show symptoms, while many exhibit only mild symptoms,” said Professor Tran Dac Phu, Head of General Department of Preventive Medicine in the briefing.

Keep taking necessary precautions

For a country with a 95 million population, Vietnam has been achieving great results in the containment of the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, past achievements do not guarantee future success. And easing up on social distancing does not mean that we’re completely clear of the virus. It is crucial that we keep following safety measures to minimize exposure to sickness, such as maintaining a 1-meter distance away from other people in public, maintaining good hygiene, and staying away from crowds.

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Cover image credit: The Smart Local Vietnam

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