Beachgoers defy ban in southern Vietnam

By Truong Ha, Viet Quoc   April 25, 2020 | 11:55 pm PT
Beachgoers defy ban in southern Vietnam
Bai Sau, a popular beach in Vung Tau, was packed at 4 p.m. on April 25, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Truong Ha.
Thousands of people flocked to the southern town of Vung Tau on Saturday to swim in the beach though it is shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic

At 3:30 p.m. there were hundreds of cars with HCMC, Dong Nai and Binh Duong license plates on Thuy Van Street.

Though there were signs warning against swimming and fences along the road leading to Bai Sau, a popular beach, people simply climbed over the fences into the beach to swim and frolic. Many of the hundreds of people did not wear masks.

Le Minh Hai, 40, his wife and three children aged six to 15 drove from HCMC early on Saturday morning.

"Saigon is hot at 37 degrees Celsius today, so when the government relaxed social distancing I took my whole family out to unwind," Hai said.

Local authorities used megaphones to tell people to leave the beach and wear masks. The swimmers beat a hasty retreat as the fences were removed.

"I was not in for long," Le Hoa of Binh Duong, who had been in the water, said. "It’s a pity, but they forbade [swimming] and there was nothing I could do."

Bai Sau, a popular beach in Vung Tau was packed on April 25, 2020. Video by VnExpress/Truong Ha.

Some two kilometers away, Bai Truoc, another popular beach, was also crowded. Most cars parked along a 200-meter stretch had license plates from other provinces, while there were also many motorbikes parked on the sidewalk.

There were no officials to be seen.

Pham Khac To, director of the Vung Tau tourism management board, said since last weekend people had been sneaking into the beaches, making it difficult for authorities to control the situation.

"Today [Saturday] was more crowded because the provinces have loosened their social distancing restrictions and people heard the Covid-19 was under control," To said.

Tran Van Tuan, Vice Chairman of Ba Ria - Vung Tau People's Committee, said the province has closed all beaches. "Other localities have relaxed social distancing norms, but visitors must follow Ba Ria - Vung Tau’s regulations for Covid-19 prevention."

Vung Tau has been instructed to strictly enforce the ban, he added.

There have been no reported cases in the province, but it has also kept karaoke parlors, bars, dance clubs, cinemas, and other amusement places closed.

There were no new coronavirus infections in Vietnam on Saturday and Sunday morning. Of the country’s 270 cases so far, 230 have recovered.

Apart from some districts in Hanoi and the northern provinces of Bac Ninh and Ha Giang still deemed "high risk" for Covid-19, Hanoi, HCMC and other localities relaxed their social distancing restrictions from Thursday.

Most famous beaches across Vietnam remain closed to limit gatherings. One notable exception is Da Nang, which has reopened its beaches, restaurants and cafes.

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