Catholics welcome Archbishop Vu Van Thien to Hang Kenh Parish in Hai Phong on Jan. 28. (Photo courtesy of gphaiphong.org)
Vietnam’s government is enforcing stringent social distancing to stem the coronavirus in two northern provinces where the country’s worst infections were found.
The Health Ministry has recorded 91 locally transmitted infections in Hanoi, Hai Phong and three neighboring provinces since Jan. 27, ending a nearly two-month run without a local case.
One case involves a female factory worker, 34, from Hai Duong province, who met with a Vietnamese national who had travelled to Japan and tested positive for the new UK variant of the virus, which is much more easily transmissible.
The other is a 31-year-old support staff worker from Van Don International Airport in Quang Ninh who was responsible for transporting infected passengers from abroad to quarantine centers.
The ministry said the country’s worst wave of Covid-19 cases has a high risk of rapidly spreading in communities. Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said Vietnam should prepare for a possible scenario of up to 30,000 coronavirus cases.
On Jan. 28, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered provincial officials and state agencies to tighten screening and controls so as to stem the deadly pandemic within 10 days.
Phuc demanded Chi Linh city of Hai Duong province be isolated and people stay home and maintain social distancing for 21 days. People are only allowed to leave their homes to go to work, buy food and medicines and be hospitalized. No more than two people can gather in public places and they must keep themselves at least two meters apart.
Local schools, entertainment places, public transport and non-essential services have been shut down. Van Don International Airport will also close within 15 days.
The PM ordered authorities in Hai Duong and Quang Ninh to take stringent measures to contain the coronavirus spread and speed up contact tracing.
On Jan. 29, the People’s Committee of Quang Ninh province launched a Covid-19 task force with 120 workers and 258 stations to control the coronavirus spread in Dong Trieu town where 4,600 cases at risk have been traced.
People from other provinces and cities throughout the country are asked to wear face masks, avoid gatherings and keep their distance in public places. Local authorities are allowed to tighten coronavirus measures if infections are found.
Many people are concerned that the new Covid-19 outbreak, which comes just two weeks before the Lunar New Year festival, will cause large social and religious gatherings to be held indoors.
Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi, who also serves as apostolic administrator of Hai Phong Diocese, has not issued any guidelines on religious activities in churches.
As of Jan. 29, Vietnam had reported 1,651 coronavirus cases and 35 deaths.
Vietnam and New Zealand are ranked the world’s best-performing countries in their response to the pandemic, according to a Covid-19 performance index published on Jan. 27 by the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.
The institute sought to assess the impact of geography, political systems and economic development in assessing outcomes.
The index, which was based on six indicators including confirmed cases, deaths per million people and the scale of testing, assessed 98 countries in the 36 weeks that followed their 100th case.
“Fewer reported cases and deaths, both in aggregate and per capita terms, point towards a better response to the virus,” the Lowy Institute said.