HCM City's health department said there are about 150,000 positive COVID-19 cases detected through rapid antigen tests that have not been accounted for in the national tally.
Doctors treating a seriously ill COVID-19 patient at Tan Binh District’s COVID-19 field hospital.
Explaining how these cases had not been granted an identification number in the health ministry's records, Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, deputy head of HCM City's health department, on Monday said that the protocol was that only cases confirmed through RT-PCR diagnostics were officially considered positive cases.
During the peak of the outbreak in HCM City, the country’s COVID-19 epicentre, both rapid antigen tests and RT-PCR tests have been deployed throughout the city depending on the perceived risks of each area, and all positive cases found through antigen tests were considered as confirmed COVID-19 patients and got treated accordingly, instead of waiting for the confirmation from the much more time-consuming lab tests.
All of them were quarantined – either moved into centralised quarantine facilities or allowed to self-isolate at homes if conditions met, in which cases, local governments would bring medical packages to them.
The city's health department already had these “unconfirmed” cases in its logs but had not yet submitted them to the health ministry, and it was proposing the ministry add the cases to the national database.
If all these 150,000 cases are added to the national tally, Viet Nam's official COVID-19 case count would surpass 900,000 (the country has logged 766,051 infections as of the end of Monday), almost 60 per cent of which detected are in HCM City with more than 525,000 cases.
Chau said that the addition would also significantly bring down the country's case-fatality ratio (CFR) to 2 per cent, instead of the currently 2.5 per cent – which the health ministry in their daily reports have noted to be much higher than the global average of 2.1 per cent.
On Tuesday, the health ministry has responded to the HCM City's proposal, saying that on August 20, their special standing task force on COVID-19 to HCM City directed the City's COVID-19 Prevention and Control Committee to register positive cases found through rapid antigen tests as confirmed cases if they are told to self-isolate at home.
Confirmatory RT-PCR tests would be done on cases that are sent to centralised quarantine facilities, and the daily figures that the city sends to the health ministry for national tallying are supposed to include the positive rapid test cases.
The health ministry also told HCM City's health department to clarify the exact figures, the total positive rapid tests, the number of patients self-isolating at homes and the number of patients confirmed positive again through RT-PCR before they are sent to medical facilities/centralised quarantine facilities.
The ministry asked HCM City’s health department to have an explanation on the belatedness in asking for guidance from the ministry and issues in case reportage.
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