HANOI • Vietnam has suspended all flights to and from Danang for 15 days after at least 22 cases of Covid-19 were detected in the city, the government said yesterday.
The South-east Asian country is back on high alert after the authorities last Saturday confirmed the first community infections since April, and another three cases on Sunday, all in or around Danang.
A further 11 cases linked to a Danang hospital were reported late on Monday.
Yesterday, Vietnam’s Health Ministry reported seven cases in Danang and the surrounding province. All bus and train services to and from Danang have also been suspended from yesterday.
The coastal city, a tourism hot spot, had reintroduced social distancing measures over the weekend after the government confirmed the first domestically-transmitted cases of the coronavirus in more than three months.
With more than 95 million people, Vietnam is the most populous country in the world to have recorded no Covid-19 fatalities.
Thanks to strict quarantine measures and an aggressive and widespread testing programme, Vietnam has kept its virus total to 438 cases.
Two of the Danang cases were in a critical condition, the Health Ministry said.
Vietnam is still closed to foreign tourism, but there had been a surge in domestic travellers looking to take advantage of discounted flights and holiday packages to local resorts.
On Monday, the government said it had requested the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) to allow domestic airlines to significantly increase the number of flights from Danang to 11 other Vietnamese cities in order to help evacuate 80,000 people, mostly tourists.
“All evacuation flights are now cancelled,” CAAV deputy director Vo Huy Cuong told Reuters yesterday.
“We operated 90 flights to evacuate tourists stranded in Danang yesterday but most tourists had already left Danang on Sunday, mostly by coach or train to nearby provinces,” Mr Cuong said.
Danang’s authorities shut down two hospitals visited by two virus cases, and also ordered patients, medical staff, caregivers and family members – about 7,000 people in total – to be quarantined for 14 days, local media reported.
Around 18,000 of the tourists who had been in Danang have returned to Ho Chi Minh City, the authorities from the southern business hub said yesterday.
A further 15,000 to 20,000 had been expected to arrive in Hanoi, according to a statement from the city’s governing body on Monday.
Vietnam’s first case since April 16 was perhaps the most unnerving: a 57-year-old grandfather who had been in Danang for about a month and had not travelled to other provinces.
That has triggered concerns that Vietnam, which has reported relatively low infection numbers overall, may be vulnerable to imported cases from people crossing the border illegally into the country.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered tighter border and immigration controls.
The police have made a number of arrests of Vietnamese and Chinese charged with shepherding people into the country illegally.
Still, Vietnamese health officials, like their counterparts elsewhere, are puzzling over the source of new infections.
So Vietnamese leaders are doing what has succeeded in the past: deploying swift and blunt lockdown-like actions.
Danang’s authorities shut down two hospitals visited by two victims, and also ordered patients, medical staff, caregivers and family members – about 7,000 people in total – to be quarantined for 14 days, local media reported.
A third hospital was also locked down, VnExpress reported.
The city issued a stay-at-home order for 15 days for six of eight districts starting yesterday, the local government said on its website.
Residents are prohibited from going out except for essential reasons like buying food and medicine, for health emergencies or working at factories. They must also stay 2m apart from one another.
Furthermore, operations of private vehicles are restricted.
Meanwhile, other parts of the country are taking precautions. In Hanoi, some 790km to the north of Danang, officials reissued anti-virus mandates – including wearing masks in public areas.