HANOI (Reuters) -Vietnam’s health ministry issued an urgent appeal on Friday for private hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients as the Southeast 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. It has detected a total of 137,000 cases, 85% of which were recorded over the past month.
“The Delta variant is destroying all anti-pandemic achievements,” health minister Nguyen Thanh Long told a cabinet meeting on Friday.
Private medical facilities should provide beds, equipment and manpower to treat COVID-19 patients when assigned to do so by authorities, the ministry said in a separate statement.
Vietnam had maintained a policy which required anyone who tested positive for the virus to be hospitalised at a state-run institution.
Vietnam’s daily COVID-19 infections hit a record 8,649 cases on Friday, taking its total tally to over 137,000, the health ministry said.
With cases rapidly rising and the capacity of state hospitals stretched, however, asymptomatic cases in outbreak epicentre Ho Chi Minh City have been permitted to isolate at home on a trial basis.
During a visit to the city on Friday, president Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged authorities to speed up their vaccination campaign.
Vietnam has a population of 98 million and has so far administered over 5.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, but only around 550,000 people have been fully inoculated.
Authorities would carry the burden of guilt if the vaccination campaign continued at a slow pace, Phuc told city officials. “We are trying to extinguish the fire, not just prevent people from getting burnt,” he said.
The rapid spread of infections has prompted 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.
(Editing by James Pearson and Mike Harrison)