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‘Absurd’ quarantine policies irk Hanoians

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Many Hanoians say they are frustrated with illogical and impractical quarantine policies. Needless centralized quarantine and traveling long distances to get tested are two examples they cite.

Nguyen Hoang Phuong, who lives in the Royal City urban complex in Thanh Xuan District, was designated a close contact of a Covid-19 case on November 5 after being in the same elevator.

He was notified on November 11 to enter a centralized quarantine camp, which meant he would have to spend 14 days in the camp after having self-isolated himself for seven days.

“It’s absurd… a waste of time and not at all necessary,” said Phuong, adding that he was puzzled after learning that several others who shared the same elevator did not have to go into centralized quarantine as he did.

Phuong, who has received two Covid-19 vaccine shots, said there was only a low chance of him getting infected as he spent less than a minute inside the elevator and he had worn a mask. But all his requests to allow self-isolation in his apartment or other quarantine facilities with paid services were denied.

“I understand the importance of disease prevention, but I’m also worried about the risk of cross-infection in quarantine zones,” he said.

Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long had said on November 11 that people who have already received two Covid-19 vaccine shots, follow coronavirus prevention measures and whose living quarters satisfy safety criteria would not have to enter 14-day centralized quarantine, even if they were in the same elevator with a coronavirus case.

“Then why do I have to?” Phuong asked.

On November 19, Hanoi issued guidelines on allowing close contacts of Covid-19 cases in 26 districts to be isolated at home. Four downtown districts – Ba Dinh, Hoan Kiem, Dong Da and Hai Ba Trung, however, would still apply centralized quarantine measures due to their “special importance.” Some districts, like Hoang Mai, apply centralized quarantine and home quarantine at the same time.

Nguyen Viet Hung, deputy chairman of the Hanoi Infection Control Society, said the exclusion of four Hanoi districts from home quarantine measures was “confusing and represented inequality in the coronavirus fight.” He suggested that all mild Covid-19 cases and close contacts be allowed home quarantine.

“Forcing people to enter centralized quarantine may lead to people lying to avoid it,” he said.

Phuong is not an isolated case. Tran Trang, 31, of Dong Da District said she’d come into contact with a Covid-19 case on November 12, but it was not until November 16 that local authorities took her into centralized quarantine at the dorm of FPT University.

“There are places that start counting your quarantine days from the point of making contact with Covid-19 cases, but there are also places that don’t. I don’t know when I’ll get out,” she said, adding that she has a small child at home and her house was “more than enough” for her to self-isolate.

Red tape

Ha Dong District resident Doan Thanh, 31, was notified four days after going into centralized quarantine that he would be able to self-isolate at home if he tested negative for the virus after completing seven days in centralized quarantine. His initial happiness on hearing this evaporated as he faced bureaucratic hurdles ahead.

He would need to file a form and send to his ward’s Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control. An inspection team would come to his house to evaluate whether it satisfied criteria for self-isolation. If it did, the team would send another form to the committee so an approval paper would be issued.

“Way too complicated,” Thanh exclaimed. He tried to sign up, but has received neither a certificate to confirm he’s been in centralized quarantine, nor an appropriate form to send to the committee. When he called the ward to ask, they said to refer the matter to a medical center. No one at the centralized quarantine facility answered his inquiries.

“I might have already finished my centralized quarantine period before I get my hands on that paper,” said a frustrated Thanh.

Nguyen Truong Sinh, chairman of Xuan Phuong Ward in Nam Tu Liem District, said all close contacts who wish to leave centralized quarantine facilities and go home for self-isolation must get approval from the concerned facilities. He said all procedures are being followed appropriately.

“But no one told me how one’s supposed to follow those procedures,” Thanh said.

Those who are allowed to self-isolate at home face different hurdles.

Nguyen Tra My, 29, had already packed her stuff to go into centralized quarantine after coming into contact with a Covid-19 case on November 10. On November 15, she was notified that she should self-isolate at home as the centralized quarantine zone was overloaded. So she locked herself in her own room in Cau Giay District.

But My has had to venture outside twice, traveling four kilometers from Mai Dich to Trung Hoa District to be tested for the coronavirus. She requested that someone comes to her house to take her samples, or at least allow the collection to take place at a closer location, but her request was denied.

“Making people travel four kilometers is not quarantining,” she said.

Nguyen Hai Yen, deputy director of the Cau Giay District medical center, agreed that those who came into close contact with Covid-19 cases should not be asked to go out to get tested. She added that the district detects around 8-12 new clusters every day, and the number of close contacts has spiraled out of control.

According to the Hanoi People’s Committee, the capital has recorded over 8,600 close contacts of Covid-19 cases between November 11 and November 17. Of these over 1,100 have eventually become infected with the novel coronavirus. That means that around 13 percent of close contacts eventually became coronavirus cases, twice the rate recorded between October 11 and October 31.

Phuong said he was less than impressed about existing Covid-19 policies in Hanoi.

On learning that an entire floor of an apartment building was locked down for two weeks just because one family had a coronavirus case, he fumed: “If one is fully vaccinated and there are multiple ways to prevent infection, why should there be measures that trouble people to no end?”

*Names of residents have been changed for anonymity.

By Quynh Nguyen – VnExpress.net – November 27, 2021

‘Absurd’ quarantine policies irk Hanoians
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