Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Aug 6 (efe-epa).- The new wave of COVID-19 cases in Vietnam after three months without detecting community infections has been accompanied by a campaign of arrests related to the illegal entry of Chinese citizens into the country although the government has avoided establishing a direct link between the two phenomena.
The latest ruling came on Tuesday, when a court in the north of the country sentenced six members of a gang to between two to six years in prison for facilitating the entry of Chinese citizens into Vietnam in June in exchange for 4,000 yuan ($576).
This sentence was preceded by a steady stream of arrests since July 25, when Vietnam confirmed its first community infection of the novel coronavirus in 99 days, and when Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called for a strengthening of border controls.
Health authorities have established that this new wave, which has caused more than 200 community infections in several provinces of Vietnam and the first nine deaths from the virus in this country, began in Danang in the first week of July but they have not found patient zero nor expect to do so.
With borders officially closed since Mar. 23 – except for repatriated Vietnamese citizens from around the world and skilled foreign workers who are all tested and quarantined -, illegal immigration appears to be one of the most consistent hypotheses to explain the return of the virus to a country that believed COVID-19 had been stamped out.
According to the Communist regime in Hanoi, since June, security forces have discovered the entry of 177 illegal Chinese immigrants, most of them in search of work and others intending to go to Cambodia to enjoy its casinos.
The return of COVID-19 to Vietnam has put the spotlight on this problem and the difficult conditions under which police officials work in remote areas along the porous 1,400-kilometer (870 miles) long border between Vietnam and China.
Vietnam, which has so far recorded 717 cases of coronavirus, and nine deaths, was hailed by international organizations for its prompt measures and effective tracking teams during the first wave of the epidemic.
The Vietnamese government has ruled out returning to a nationwide social distancing campaign to tackle this new wave as it had done in April and is relying on selective lockdowns and increasing the number of tests to stop the outbreak in the first half of August. EFE-EPA