Vietnam curbs movement in city of 1.1 million as virus-free run ends

HANOI (CNA) – Vietnam suspended flights to and from Danang for 15 days from yesterday after at least 14 cases of the novel coronavirus had been detected in the city, the government said yesterday.

The country also suspended passenger bus and train services to and from the city, the government said in a statement.

Until the weekend it appeared that Vietnam managed to stub out the virus – and with lockdowns lifted since late April, domestic tourists flocked back to the coastal city of Danang.

But fresh restrictions on movement, including stopping buses and taxis within the city, were announced following the discovery of Vietnam’s first locally transmitted COVID-19 infection in nearly 100 days.

After a 57-year-old retired Vietnamese man in Danang was confirmed to have the disease last Saturday – the first community transmission since April 16 – more than a dozen new infections were found.

A staff member from Vietnam’s Centre of Disease Control assists passengers as they queue up for temperature checks at the departures terminal at Danang’s international airport. PHOTO: AFP

On Monday, the government said it requested the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) to allow domestic airlines to significantly increase the number of flights from Danang to 11 Vietnamese cities to help evacuate 80,000 people, mostly tourists.

“All evacuation flights now are cancelled,” CAAV deputy director Vo Huy Cuong said yesterday.

“We operated 90 flights to evacuate tourists stranded in Danang yesterday but most tourists already left Danang last Sunday, mostly by coach or train to nearby provinces,” Cuong said.

Trains, boats to islands, buses, taxis and tourist vehicles in Danang will also be halted for 15 days.

Most of the new cases in Danang were linked to three hospitals, which will be “put under lockdown from 12am on July 28 until further notice”, according to an announcement on the city’s website.

Meanwhile, residents in most of the city’s districts were advised to stay home unless absolutely necessary, with a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public.

So far Vietnam reported 431 virus cases – including the new patients in Danang – and no deaths, winning praise for its handling of the epidemic.

Two of the Danang cases were in critical condition, Vietnam’s Health Ministry said. Authorities were quick to lock down the country after the virus emerged in neighbouring China, with a rigorous state quarantine and contact-tracing system. Vietnam is still closed to foreign tourism, and international flights remain strictly limited with a two-week mandatory quarantine for repatriated citizens.