Crowds ignore PM’s social distancing appeal, flock to beaches

By Xuan Ngoc, Pham Linh, Dac Thanh   March 31, 2020 | 01:41 am PT
Crowds ignore PM’s social distancing appeal, flock to beaches
People flock to Nha Trang beach in Khanh Hoa Province on March 30, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Ngoc.
Thousands have hit the beaches in several localities, ignoring instructions not to crowd public places as a preventive measure against the coronavirus.

Though the government banned crowd gathering as a preventive measure against Covid-19, thousands hit the beach.

Three days after Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued a directive banning crowds of more than 20 people and ordering localities to close "non-essential" shops as the country enters a "decisive" two-week phase in its Covid-19 fight, popular Nha Trang Town was flooded with beach-goers, many without masks on Tuesday.

Eateries along the beaches in the popular seaside resort town in the central province of Khanh Hoa had closed down, but many street vendors were looking for customers, apparently not worried about the high infection risks.

On the shore, a loudspeaker continuously warned people not to gather in crowds, but to little effect.

Nguyen Sy Khanh, vice chairman of the Nha Trang People's Committee, said he had sent a notice to businesses along the beach, requesting them to close following the PM’s order. "But local officials merely warned people not to gather in large crowds at public beaches."

Local authorities said the crowds were gathering on the coast from Tran Phu Street to Pham Van Dong Street, which is quite long at around 12 kilometers.

"If we limit residents to their homes, they cannot exercise and may get sick. We are discussing the issue to find a solution," Khanh said.

The Health Ministry on February 26 declared Khanh Hoa Province free of the Covid-19 epidemic after recording no new patient for 39 days. The ministry had declared a coronavirus epidemic in Khanh Hoa on January 1 after a hotel receptionist in Nha Trang tested positive for the virus.

In the central province of Quang Ngai, authorities Monday put up barriers to prevent residents from bathing at My Khe, the most famous local beach.

Quang Ngai has not recorded any Covid-19 infection, but as in provinces and cities nationwide, all bars, karaoke parlors, tourist attractions and other entertainment facilities have been shut down on the PM’s order.

On March 29, authorities in the central province of Quang Nam, which boasts a long coastline of 125 kilometers and is home to the beautiful Ha My, Cua Dai, An Bang and Cham Islands, closed all public beaches until April 15.

The closure followed thousands of people flooding the Tam Thanh Beach in Tam Ky Town, capital of Quang Nam, on the weekend.

Beach-goers play on Tam Thanh Beach in Quang Nam Province regardless of warnings from local authorities. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh. 

Tam Thanh Beach in Quang Nam Province filled with people regardless of Covid-19 warnings on March 28, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh. 

Vietnam is starting a nationwide social distancing campaign Wednesday, not allowing gatherings of more than two people in public, except for in offices, schools and hospitals, where the government had imposed a 20-person limit earlier.

A directive issued Tuesday by PM Phuc calls for people in the same families, villages, communes, districts and cities to stay put where they are. People should only leave home for emergencies, buying food and medicine, and working in factories, production facilities and businesses that involve trade in "essential" goods and services, the directive says.

Phuc said at a meeting Tuesday that though the government has imposed tougher measures to limit travel, including reducing the frequency of domestic flights, suspending public bus services and closing all tourist attractions and historical sites, large crowds were still appearing on many streets and public beaches in several localities. 

He requested localities to halt all religious gatherings and warned top leaders of any localities allowing the gathering of crowds would be strictly punished.

As of Tuesday, Vietnam’s total infections hit 204, with 55 discharged from hospital. Many currently active cases are Vietnamese nationals returning from Europe and the U.S., foreigners coming from the same regions and those who’d come in contact with both groups.

The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed over 37,800 lives after spreading to 200 countries and territories so far.

Vietnam has seen Q1 foreign arrivals plummet following several entry restrictions and the closure of tourism destinations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The country welcomed nearly 3.7 million international tourists in the first quarter, down 18.1 percent year-on-year, according to General Statistics Office (GSO).

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