Fast-spreading nCoV bottles festivities across Vietnam

By Hoang Phong    February 4, 2020 | 05:00 am PT
Fast-spreading nCoV bottles festivities across Vietnam
Quan Su Pagoda in Hanoi becomes deserted during the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday (January 23-29). Photo by VnExpress/Kieu Duong.
The culture ministry has asked all localities to scrap historical relic and tourist site activities as well as spring festivities while the new coronavirus rages.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Nguyen Ngoc Thien, in a document released Monday ordered all provinces and cities to suspend festivals in epidemic-stricken localities and not organize tourism activities at historical relic and scenic sites to battle the nCoV outbreak.

Vietnam has recorded ten confirmed cases of new coronavirus infection as of Tuesday, including five in Vinh Phuc Province, three in Ho Chi Minh City, one in Khanh Hoa Province and one in Thanh Hoa Province.

With the first two months of the year marked by almost 8,000 festivals nationwide, many staged during lunar January, Vietnam faces concerns about an expanding nCoV epidemic.

Earlier, the government called on citizens to wear face masks in public and restrict spring travel trips as well as participation in crowded festivals.

Major festivals like Yen Tu in Quang Ninh, which borders China and hosts world famous Ha Long Bay, Tam Chuc in Ha Nam, Tran Temple in Nam Dinh, and Huyen Tran Princess in the former imperial capital of Hue have all been canceled to combat the deadly epidemic.

Tam Chuc Pagodas crowded spring festival in Ha Nam Province is canceled to prevent the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

Tam Chuc Pagoda's crowded spring festival in Ha Nam Province was canceled to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy. 

Hanoi Chairman Nguyen Duc Chung on Monday approved closing the city's popular walking street near iconic Hoan Kiem (Sword) Lake and suspending all local festivals until further notice. The capital has reported 29 suspected cases of nCoV infection as of Monday, including six returning from Wuhan City, center of the epidemic, 19 coming from other areas of China and four working at Noi Bai Airport.

Data from the municipal Tourism Department shows that 7,600 tourists scrapped their trips to Hanoi while over 12,000 hotel room bookings were canceled.

Foreign tourists visit the War Remnants Museum, a popular tourist destination in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.

Foreign tourists visit War Remnants Museum, a popular tourist destination in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.

Vietnam is in the midst of a tourism boom, with an all-time high of 18 million in 2019, up 16.2 percent year-on-year. With its visa waivers, the government expects 20.5 million visitors in 2020 and revenues of $35 billion, equivalent to 10 percent of GDP.

The country welcomed around two million foreign visitors in January, a 32.8 percent increase. Nearly 77 percent stemmed from Asian countries.

January saw tourists from China to Vietnam increase 72.6 percent from a year ago to 644,700, the highest growth, and accounting for one third of total foreign tourists during the first month of the new year, according to General Statistics Office.

Vietnam’s proximity to China has made it a popular destination among many Chinese who want a vacation overseas without a long haul journey.

The Vietnamese government declared the novel coronavirus outbreak an epidemic Saturday. It has deployed various measures to combat the virus, including halting all flights to coronavirus-hit areas in China, suspending visas for visitors from those regions, quarantining Chinese workers returning to Vietnam after the Lunar New Year holiday and suspending spring festivities, while temporarily closing schools.

The global death toll from the epidemic has reached 427, with 425 dying in China, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.

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