Vietnam imposes series of lockdowns over Covid-19 variant

By Nguyen Quy   February 2, 2021 | 12:00 am PT
Vietnam imposes series of lockdowns over Covid-19 variant
Fences are put up at a road leading to Cai Rong Town, Quang Ninh Province, which is under lockdown, February 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Cuong.
Many areas in Vietnam have been placed under lockdowns following the latest Covid-19 outbreak featuring a rapidly transmitting U.K.-originated variant.

The northern province of Hai Duong, the country's biggest hotspot in the new outbreak that struck last Thursday, imposed a 21-day lockdown starting January 28 after dozens of workers of a Taiwanese-run firm were found infected with the novel coronavirus.

No public activity and no passenger transportation out of the town is allowed, apart from exceptional cases. The use of personal vehicles should be avoided as much as possible. Transportation of materials and goods is still allowed.

Besides Chi Linh, home to 220,000 people, Hai Duong, the capital town of the eponymous province, has locked down many residential areas for 21 days since January 31, suspending activities involving large crowds. Some communes and villages in Nam Sach and Kim Thanh districts have also been placed under lockdowns.

Hai Duong is currenty the biggest Covid-19 hotspot with 209 confirmed as of Tuesday morning.

Its neighbor Quang Ninh, another Covid-19 hotspot where 33 infections have been recorded starting with employees at Van Don Airport, has locked down 12 communes and one ward in Dong Trieu Town of Dong Trieu District, and one commune in Van Don District.

The province is set to extend the lockdown over the entire Dong Trieu Town, which neighbors the Chi Linh hotspot in Hai Duong Province and home to around 200,000 people, from Wednesday.

Quang Ninh's Cai Bau Island, 50 km from the famous Ha Long, home to seven communes and towns, was locked down Tuesday after more infections were detected.

Authorities in Hanoi, less than two hours to the east of Hai Duong, have so far locked down nine areas, including a primary school and an apartment in Nam Tu Liem District, the FPT University in Thach That District and a military-managed factory in Dong Anh District. Other locked down areas are in Cau Giay, Hai Ba Trung and Me Linh districts.

Hanoi authorities on Monday afternoon decided to shut down video game and internet parlors in the city from Tuesday, following the shutdown of all bars, karaoke parlors, and discotheques a day earlier.

Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said at a meeting with city authorities Monday that Hanoi should consider applying social distancing on a wider scale as the pandemic situation in the capital has turned complicated and could last longer than expected.

The capital has reported 20 cases under the latest outbreak, as of Tuesday morning.

The northern port city of Hai Phong also locked down its maternity hospital Monday after a man visiting the hospital to take care of his wife was confirmed positive for the virus the same day.

Bac Giang Province, around 50 kilometers from Hanoi, has locked down a commune in Luc Nam District after it recorded its first community transmission case during the latest wave.

Gia Lai Province in the Central Highlands, which has reported six infection cases in the latest outbreak, has also placed many areas under lockdown, including a general hospital.

The southern province of Binh Duong, which neighbors HCMC, has also recorded a community transmission case in Thu Dau Mot Town linked to Hai Duong outbreak. Town authorities imposed a lockdown on many areas starting Monday.

The new wave of Covid-19 community transmissions in Vietnam was caused by the fast-spreading U.K. variant, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

The virus strain was first found in the U.K. last November, and is said to be 70 percent more transmissible.

Long stressed that the new virus variant can be transmitted airborne, adding that the face mask rule must be strictly followed.

The latest outbreak comes just a couple of weeks before Tet, Vietnam's biggest and most important festival, an occasion for family reunions that will see millions travel home.

However, thousands of people are now in centralized quarantine facilities for a period of up to 21 days due to the new variant, meaning that they would not be able to return home for the holiday, which peaks on February 12.

The government has said it seeks to avoid deleterious socioeconomic impacts of a nationwide lockdown. Instead, local social distancing measures are being applied in areas hard hit by the pandemic.

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