No karaoke, disco as Vietnam resumes most non-essential services

By Viet Tuan, Nguyen Quy   May 7, 2020 | 12:05 am PT
No karaoke, disco as Vietnam resumes most non-essential services
Beer shops on Bui Vien backpacker street in downtown HCMC are closed as a measure to prevent Covid-19 infection, March 14, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Vietnam can organize sports events and festivals and resume most non-essential services except karaoke parlors and discos.

With the country going 21 days clear of any community transmission of the Covid-19 virus, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has allowed localities to organize events with large gatherings, including sports events and festivals, in public places, but people are still advised to wear face masks and use hand sanitizers.

However, he said at a Thursday meeting that karaoke parlors and disco bars will remain closed, as the Covid-19 pandemic was still developing in a complicated manner in Asia, the U.S. and Europe.

The latest relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions came around two weeks after Phuc issued a directive, asking localities to stop all religious gatherings, sports events and crowded festivals in public places, and extending the closure of "non-essential" business services like bars, karaoke parlors, massage parlors, beauty clinics and entertainment facilities.

On Thursday, Phuc ordered localities to continue implementation of measures to prevent the risk of infections from abroad. All those returning from foreign countries will be placed under quarantine for 14 days.

Vietnam's entry suspension for foreign nationals since March 22 is still in effect. Only those with diplomatic or official passports, or coming for special economic projects, are allowed to enter the country under strict medical surveillance.

Distancing at schools

At the Thursday meeting, Phuc also allowed students not to wear face masks while studying in class and lifted distancing measures in classrooms. Until now, students and teachers were required to wear masks and keep a distance of at least a meter from each other. Many schools split their study time into morning and afternoon slots with each class split between two rooms and only one student per table.

On Monday, millions of Vietnamese students in 63 provinces and cities in the country, mainly ninth graders and senior high-schoolers, came back to school following an unprecedented, prolonged school break following the Lunar New Year festival in late January due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past few days, as many students returned to school, a debate had erupted over the rationality of a requirement that they wear face masks in classes.

Some schools even took the extra precaution by asking students to wear transparent plastic face shields, which are normally used by healthcare workers to protect themselves from respiratory droplets that can carry pathogens.

Some education experts warned wearing face shields for long hours can affect students’ visibility, resulting in unclear vision, eye strain, and potentially causing harm to eyesight.

Economic recovery top priority

Phuc stressed the importance of rebuilding the economy post Covid-19.

"Speeding up economic recovery and building the country is an important priority task which needs to be focused on at all levels without ignoring anti-pandemic measures," he said.

He asked localities and relevant agencies to help remove obstacles for businesses and speed up financial support for poor people and businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government passed a VND62 trillion ($2.6 billion) financial support package to support 20 million poor people and those hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. Of the package, VND12.4 trillion ($530.7 million) has been disbursed.

Starting Thursday, Vietnam has resumed local transportation and lifted all social distancing restrictions on buses, taxis, aircraft and trains. But all passengers are still requested to wear face masks.

During the nationwide social distancing period in the first two weeks of April, gatherings of more than two people in public places were not allowed, and people were required to stay at home except for emergencies, buying food and medicines, and working in factories, production facilities and businesses that involve trade in "essential" goods and services.

The campaign was then extended for another week in 12 localities, including Hanoi and HCMC, which were deemed to carry "high risk" of infection.

Vietnam has now gone five days in a row without new Covid-19 patients and 21 days straight without any infections caused by community transmission.

The nation's Covid-19 tally stood at 271 Thursday morning. Of these, 232 have recovered and been discharged and 39 are still under treatment.

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