Vietnam braces for new wave of coronavirus despite early success in containing outbreak

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A propaganda poster on preventing the spread of Covid-19 is seen on a wall as a man smokes a cigarette along a Hanoi street on April 29, 2020.Manan Vatsyayana | AFP | Getty Images

Vietnam, once praised for its success in containing the coronavirus outbreak, is now grappling with a resurgence of cases and has warned the disease could spread more widely across the country.The Southeast Asian country – which shares a border with China, where the virus first emerged – had not recorded any locally transmitted cases for more than three months before a 57-year-old resident of the central coastal city of Danang only tested positive for coronavirus disease on Saturday, the Vietnamese government said.

The patient had no travel history at home or abroad over the past month, the government said. But Reuters reported that tens of thousands of domestic tourists were vacationing in the coastal city.

Authorities are preparing to evacuate some 80,000 tourists from Danang. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc warned on Wednesday that every province and city in the country was at risk of contracting more infections, Reuters reported, citing state broadcaster Vietnam Television.

To be clear, the total 450 confirmed cases reported in Vietnam on Wednesday remain relatively low for a country of around 97 million people. The country has also recorded no deaths linked to the coronavirus.

But the resurgence of the outbreak in Vietnam underscores the difficulties governments are facing in containing the rapidly spreading disease. This is the case even for a country that has been hailed internationally as a potential model for other developing countries in managing the coronavirus epidemic.

Vietnamese government online newspaper VGP said on Monday that preliminary epidemiological investigations showed that some of the new cases detected in Danang were linked to three hospitals in the city. Genome analysis also revealed that “this is a new type of Covid-19, which is more contagious,” Acting Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long said.

Authorities have stepped up containment measures in Danang, such as stepping up contact tracing, limiting crowd sizes and stopping non-essential services. Flights to and from the city have also been temporarily suspended.

Vietnam on Wednesday reported new cases in its two largest cities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – which were attributed to people who visited Danang in recent weeks.

Reuters, citing city officials, reported that around 18,000 people who visited Danang returned to Ho Chi Minh City and another 21,000 returned to their homes in Hanoi.

Resurgence in Asia

Vietnam is not the only Asian country or territory facing a further rise in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned on Wednesday that the city was on the cusp of a large-scale epidemic that could overwhelm its health facilities and claim lives. Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, had previously managed to contain its outbreak – which allowed it to avoid a lockdown.

But the Hong Kong government imposed tougher measures this week.

Taiwan, also seen as an achievement in containing the virus, said on Tuesday it was investigating its first case of possible local transmission in more than a month, Reuters reported. A Thai migrant worker – who arrived on the island in January – tested positive for the disease just days after returning to Thailand, according to the report.

– CNBC’s Abigail Ng contributed to this report

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