Vietnam has evacuated 80,000 tourists from the central city of Danang and reimposed disease prevention measures, after the detection of four local cases of the coronavirus, the first to be recorded in the country for more than three months.
Life had returned to normal for many in Vietnam, which had been widely praised for taking swift action to contain Covid-19 and was close to reaching 100 days without any new local infections. On Saturday, however, a 57-year-old grandfather tested positive – the first community infection since April.
Social distancing measures have been introduced indefinitely throughout Danang, a tourist hotspot, with the suspension of all religious, sporting and cultural events. Wearing masks in public places in the city is now mandatory and gatherings of more than 30 people in public places are prohibited, the government said.
The city’s borders were also closed to incoming domestic tourists on Monday. Almost all foreign travelers are banned from visiting Vietnam and anyone entering the country must self-quarantine upon arrival.
The source of the new cases is unclear. Vietnamese media reported that the 57-year-old, a retired grandfather, had not left the city in recent months, but had visited three health facilities and recently attended a wedding. He went to the hospital with a cough and fever on July 20 and is said to be in critical condition.
The other three 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 messages, and swift action.
The country recorded its first cases of the coronavirus on January 23, prompting officials to extend school holidays to keep children at home and to ban flights to and from China on February 1. Vietnam was the first country outside of China to institute a mass quarantine when, on February 12, authorities isolated villages around 40 km from Hanoi that were home to 10,000 people.
The detection of the new cases comes just as Vietnam was trying to rebuild its economy and considering travel bubbles with other low-risk countries.
All carriers have now been instructed to reintroduce preventative measures, such as controlling passenger temperatures and installing hand sanitizer. Passengers in long-distance vehicles must also follow health declaration procedures, local media reported.
The new infections have also prompted authorities to step up the crackdown on illegal immigrants.