Reduced quarantine times for vaccinated Covid-19 patients feasible
Fully vaccinated Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms should be discharged after seven or ten days instead of 14 days - proposed by the HCMC health department.
The proposal, sent recently to the Ministry of Health, suggests reducing the quarantine time from 14 to seven days for Covid-19 patients who are fully vaccinated and have mild symptoms, if they test negative on the 7th day.
This will ease the burden for treatment facilities, it said.
Experts agree that the municipal health department's proposal is practical, even desirable.
Doctor Do Van Dung, head of the Public Health Department at the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacology, said shortening the quarantine period will have many positive impacts on pandemic prevention and control.
A shorter period of isolation and treatment will make the patients feel more comfortable, which can help them recover sooner than expected. It will also reduce financial costs for the healthcare system, he said.
Doctor Do Cao Van Anh, lecturer at the Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine, said that with hindsight, it can be seen that quarantining patients for 14 days, and at some point, 21 days, had created quite a few difficulties for the medical sector and had high human resource costs.
Epidemiologist Truong Huu Khanh, a consultant with the infectious and neurological diseases department at the city's Children's Hospital No.1, said quarantining up to 14 days for fully vaccinated patients with mild symptoms and negative test results is causing unnecessary overload.
"What's most important now is medical manpower. Medics need to be given priority so that they can focus their efforts on saving critical patients rather than treating those that have already tested negative," he said.
In the health department’s proposal, director Tang Chi Thuong said that since HCMC started using molnupiravir, an antiviral drug approved in Vietnam for Covid-19 treatment, most patients have recovered and tested negative after one week.
However, as currently regulated, every patient has to stay at treatment facilities for 14 days, and this has overloaded them.
Meanwhile, in recent weeks, HCMC has recorded a decrease in the number of patients; but many of them still do not live in houses that meet conditions for self-treatment.
Doctor Anh said cutting the quarantine time to seven days is totally possible and reasonable: "Covid-19 patients who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms can recover after a week and in most cases, there is little or even no chance that they could spread the virus to others."
On the other hand, treating Covid-19 with antiviral drugs is becoming a trend worldwide and Vietnam has already applied it. If medical staff can guide patients on using it and keep a close eye on them, it is completely possible to have patients discharged after seven days.
The important issue then is preparing sufficient quantities of drugs for all Covid-19 patients.
For now, molnupiravir is being used on a trial basis in Vietnam, and any patients wanting to use it have to sign a consent form.
Doctor Dung suggested that those using the drug be allowed a shortened quarantine period of seven days and those not using it be isolated for at least 10 days.
"The treatment of Covid-19 with the antiviral drug molnupiravir has been quite effective, and the drug has shown very good virus-killing effect. Some studies have showed that after taking the drug for five days, the risk of spreading the virus no longer exists," he said.
For patients not using the drug, recent studies indicate that around half develop breathing difficulties around the eighth day after showing the first Covid-19 symptoms and testing positive.
Therefore, such people should not leave treatment facilities after a week so as to prevent the possibility of their becoming critical without immediate medical help.
He said that for now, the decision to release a Covid-19 patient should be based on their actual symptoms rather than test results as has been regulated so far. "A person can certainly go home when he/she no longer shows any Covid-19 symptom 10 days after showing symptoms for the first time," he said.
He also quoted a recommendation made by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention back in September: "For most children and adults with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, infection, isolation, and precautions can be discontinued 10 days after onset of symptoms and after resolution of fever for at least 24 hours and improvement of other symptoms, and for people who are infected but asymptomatic (never develop symptoms), isolation and precautions can be discontinued 10 days after the first positive test."