Top central Vietnam attractions empty out over fresh coronavirus threat

By Nguyen Quy   July 30, 2020 | 05:28 am PT
Top central Vietnam attractions empty out over fresh coronavirus threat
August 23 Street in front of Ngo Mon Gate in the Imperial Palace, Hue, on July 29, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh.
Hue, Quy Nhon, and Phu Yen have welcomed few tourists while Da Nang and Hoi An are desolate as the number of Covid-19 cases surges.

The Hue Imperial Citadel in Thua Thien-Hue Province had very few visitors in the last few days, after dozens of local infections were confirmed in neighboring Da Nang City, the first of which ended the country's 99-day streak with no community transmission.

A ticket salesperson said on Wednesday only several guests visited the historic site, home to the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), Vietnam's last royal family.

Usually crowded Truong Tien Bridge, another symbol of Hue, was left deserted the same day, alongside Nguyen Dinh Chieu walking street skirting the iconic Huong (Perfume) River, where residents normaly gather to do exercise.

August 23 Street in front of Ngo Mon Gate in the Imperial Palace was desolate. Prior to the fresh Covid-19 outbreak in Da Nang City, the area had welcomed hundreds of visitors a day.

Thua Thien-Hue, next to Da Nang, has recorded no local infections, but decided to close all "non-essential" services like karaoke parlors and bars and stopped all crowded festivals and religious gatherings starting Thursday.

Life in Da Nang, the country's largest Covid-19 hotspot with 34 cases recorded in the last six days, has ground to a halt with empty streets and closed stores as transport is suspended and many areas locked down.

Since Tuesday, the city of 1.1 million, a top tourism hub, has implemented a 15-day social distancing campaign, which bans gatherings of over two people and requires citizens to keep a minimum distance of two meters in public and only go out for emergency reasons, buying food or medicine, and working in factories or businesses trading in essential goods and services.

The central city's My Khe Beach, voted among the world’s best by Forbes magazine, has been left deserted since Sunday as the city started imposing several social distancing measures, including stopping receiving tourists.

All flights from and to Da Nang have been suspended since Tuesday, leaving over 300 tourists stranded at local hotels, according to latest official data.

The Dragon Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnams biggest Covid-19 hotspot, is left deserted July 28, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

The Dragon Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnam's biggest Covid-19 hotspot, is left deserted on July 28, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

In Hoi An, a UNESCO heritage site in nearby Quang Nam Province, locals were allowed to ride motorbikes in the old quarter as there are no tourists. Nguyen Van Trung, a souvenir shop owner on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, said streets across the ancient town have become completely deserted since Tuesday.

Quang Nam which neighbors Da Nang has recorded eight Covid-19 cases, including five confirmed Thursday evening.

Relics and tourist sites in Hoi An were temporarily closed from Wednesday. Rowing and entertainment services along the Hoai River stopped operating. The same day, local authorities decided to suspend restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

With Covid-19 resurfacing in Vietnam, the Quang Nam Province government has ordered social distancing in Hoi An for two weeks from Friday.

In nearby Quang Ngai Province, after all tourists had left Ly Son, streets on the island, another attraction in the central region, have been deserted. Vice chairman of Ly Son Le Van Ninh said over 2,600 tourists had been brought to the mainland by Monday. Quang Ngai has recorded one infection.

Phu Yen Province in south-central Vietnam closed some of its tourist sites from Tuesday to avoid a Covid-19 outbreak.

On Wednesday, beaches in Quy Nhon, a popular town in south-central Binh Dinh Province, saw only few swimmers bracing the waters.

Like Phu Yen, Binh Dinh has not recorded any local infections, but local authorities, worried about the number of people returning from Da Nang, asked all tourism facilities to implement anti-pandemic measures.

Travel agent depression

Many travel agents have been left in dire straits as customers cancel tours en masse.

Bui Ta Hoang Vu, director of Ho Chi Minh City's Tourism Department, said the country's fresh Covid-19 wave has affected tourist psychology and seriously hurt tour operators.

Leading travel agency Saigontourist has received over 10,000 cancelations while companies like Ben Thanh Tourist, Fiditour, TST, and Dat Viet have seen over 5,000 tours canceled each.

A representative of the HCMC-based Vietrantour said after Da Nang reported locally-transmitted cases without origin detected, around 1,500 customers had canceled bookings to Phu Quoc Island in the south, and Nha Trang, Phu Yen and Quang Binh in central Vietnam, though these localities have not yet reported any community transmissions.

Ho Duc Phu, director of Hanoitourist in HCMC, said nearly 100 percent of his firm's tour bookings were canceled.

Vietnam has banned entry by foreign nationals since March 22 with exceptions and conditions, including 14-day quarantine on arrival. Since March 25, all international flights have been suspended, except for special cases like repatriation flights.

The country welcomed nearly 3.8 million international visitors in the first seven months of 2020, a drop of 61.6 percent year-on-year as it keeps its borders closed to foreigners to contain Covid-19.

Nha Trang Beach in Khanh Hoa Province is seen on July 27, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Ngoc.

A beach in Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa Province on July 27, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Ngoc.

Vietnam ended its 99-day streak with no cases of community transmission last Saturday when a 57-year-old man was confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus.

Of the 48 cases of Covid-19 community transmission recorded in the last six days, 34 are in Da Nang, eight in Quang Nam, two in Hanoi, two in Ho Chi Minh City, and one in central Quang Ngai Province and the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak each.

Vietnam has recorded 464 Covid-19 cases so far, of which 95 are active.

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