Vietnam seals off third largest city to curb new Covid-19 outbreak

By Eric San Juan

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, Jul 28 (efe-epa).- Vietnam on Tuesday cut off all transport routes to and from Danang, the country’s third largest city, where a new outbreak of the coronavirus has been detected.

After over three months without a single locally transmitted case, Vietnam has now reported at least 22 infections since Friday.

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport, for the next 15 days no planes, trains, busses, taxis or boats will be able to access or leave the city, where public transport has also been suspended and social distancing measures have been imposed.

The move also means the planned evacuation of 80,000 domestic tourists to their home towns across the country by air that was announced on Monday has been suspended.

The decision also means the reactivation of security protocols at offices and public buildings, the mandatory use of face masks and the closure of schools and non-essential businesses like massage parlors, night clubs and hairdressers.

The outbreak has triggered alarm throughout the country beyond the popular tourist destination, which is home to 1.1 million people. Hundreds of people who had visited Danang recently must isolate themselves for two weeks at home, face masks and disinfectant gels are once again part of the routine and large events have been suspended.

Originally scheduled for mid-August, the outbreak has forced the communist government in Hanoi to postpone the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ security forum by a month. The United States, North Korea and South Korea are expected to participate to address the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

So far Vietnamese authorities have detected 18 cases in Danang and four in neighboring Quang Ngai province, that have all been traced linked to a Danang hospital that has been sealed off.

With borders closed since March 23 except to repatriated Vietnamese and foreign expert workers, who have to undergo tests and comply with the two weeks of quarantine after arriving, the new outbreak has puzzled trackers, who are struggling to pinpoint its origin.

One of the hypotheses that are being considered is that this virus strain, different and more vicious than the previous ones that appeared in Vietnam, could have arrived in the country with irregular immigrants from China. In recent weeks, around 50 Chinese people were detained after crossing the border illegally.

Police arrested a Chinese citizen on Sunday who was accused of belonging to a people trafficking ring on Sunday after Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called for tighter controls in border areas with Laos, Cambodia and China.

With 431 cases of coronavirus and no deaths, Vietnam has been seen as an example by international organizations for its rapid and decisive response since January, when it took the first containment measures such as the cancellation of air connections with China and the closure of schools.

Some of the keys to its success have been the experience gained during the SARS crisis in 2003, the effectiveness of its tracking equipment, systematic testing on anyone who has been in contact with an infected person, and selective confinement in areas with several infections. EFE-EPA


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