Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people from the central city of Danang and reimposing disease-prevention measures, after four local coronavirus cases were detected, the first to be recorded in the country for more than three months.
Life had returned to normal for many in the country, which had been praised widely for taking quick action to contain Covid-19 and was on the brink of reaching 100 days without any new local infections. On Saturday, however, a 57-year-old grandfather was confirmed to have tested positive – the first community infection since April.
Social distancing measures have been introduced indefinitely across Danang, a tourist hotspot, with all religious, sports and cultural events suspended. Wearing masks in public places in the city is now compulsory and gatherings of more than 30 people at public places are banned, the government said.
The city’s borders were also shut on Monday to inbound domestic tourists, while the authorities said 80,000 people, mostly tourists, will be evacuated. Almost all foreign travellers are banned from visiting Vietnam, and anyone who does enter the country must quarantine on arrival.
The source of the new cases is not clear. Vietnamese media reported that the 57-year-old man, a retired grandfather, had not left the city in recent months, but had visited three healthcare facilities and had recently attended a wedding. He visited hospital with a cough and fever on 20 July and is reportedly in critical condition.
The three other cases include a 61-year-old man in Danang, a 17-year-old boy in Quang Ngai province and a 71-year-old woman in Danang.
Vietnam, a country of 96 million people, which shares a border with China, has so far recorded 420 cases of Covid-19 and no deaths. It has been praised for its aggressive contact-tracing campaigns, clear public health messaging and quick action.
The country recorded its first cases of coronavirus on 23 January, prompting officials to extend the school holidays to keep children at home, and ban flights to and from China on 1 February. Vietnam was the first country outside of China to introduce a mass quarantine, when, on 12 February, officials isolated villages about 40km from Hanoi that were home to 10,000 people.
The detection of the new cases comes just as Vietnam was attempting to rebuild its economy, and considering travel bubbles with other low-risk countries.
All transport operators have now been instructed to reintroduce preventative measures, such as checking passengers’ temperatures and installing hand sanitiser. Passengers on long-distance vehicles must also complete health declaration procedures, local media reported.
The new infections has also prompted authorities to step up a crackdown on illegal immigrants.