Coronavirus: usually crowded Saigon tourist hotpots wear deserted look

By Tam Linh    February 6, 2020 | 06:29 pm GMT+7

Top popular tourist spots in HCMC look forlorn as visitors stay away, fearful of crowded places as the new coronavirus outbreak is declared a national epidemic.

Saigon travel destinations less busy as coronavirus looms

The normally bustling Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is very quiet these days. 

Hoang, a wooden-clog seller, has had no customers throughout the morning, while she would have earned around VND5 million ($215) revenue on a normal day. "Many customers are scared to go to the market due to the nCoV virus," she said.

Of late, she has been able to make just VND1 million ($43) on a lucky day. "It was not so bad even when SARS was around," she said, sighing.

A SARS outbreak between November 2002 and July 2003 in southern China caused an eventual 8,098 cases, resulting in 774 deaths reported in 17 countries, according to the WHO.

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At a clothing shop, Anh Mai (right), the owner, said that from January 28 till now, the number of customers has dropped by 50 percent. The decrease started even before the Lunar New Year holiday. 

"Back then, there were still Indian customers, but no longer. Not only Chinese customers, but Korean and Japanese ones are nowhere to be seen," she exclaimed.

The Vietnamese government declared the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak an epidemic last Saturday. As of Thursday afternoon Vietnam had 10 confirmed cases of nCoV infection. Three have been discharged from hospitals. 


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For now, the customers are mainly Westerners who do not seem unduly bothered. Many are not wearing face masks and are touching products and eating as usual.


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The War Remnants Museum, another top destination in HCMC, has scarcely had any visitors in recent days. The number of visitors has gone down continuously since mid January, and the downtrend is projected to continue for the time being, a representative said.

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"We heard that in HCMC three cases of nCoV have been quarantined, so we aren’t that worried. We still walk around in the downtown area without face masks, unless we are going to the airport," said a Japanese visitor.

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The area in front of the Central Post Office is bare, devoid of visitors taking photos. The few stalls are not doing much business. 

"There have been fewer visitors since before Tet. It keeps getting worse. Before, I could earn a few hundred thousand to a million VND ($43) a day, but now I am unable to sell anything the whole day," one vendor said.

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Inside the Post Office, too, the crowd is missing. There are much fewer visitors from Asian countries.

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The Independence Palace that teems with visitors on normal days has also looked empty. Many tour buses usually drop visitors here, but there are far fewer ones these days. 

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The ticket lines for the Independence Palace are much shorter than they used to be. 

According to the city Department of Tourism, while foreign visitors in January recorded a 6-percent increase year-on-year, the figure in the Lunar New Year holiday alone dropped by 12 percent.

As of Thursday morning the global death toll from the nCoV had been 565 out of the number of confirmed cases of over 28,200, mostly in mainland China. 1,170 people have recovered.

 
 
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