Vietnam in new virus scare as 15 cases emerge

PHOTO: Xinhuathai

Vietnam, which recorded its first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 since April, has now closed the coastal resort city of Da Nang to tourists after 15 new cases were recorded there over the past 5 days. Tourists cannot enter the city for 14 days and up to 80,000, mostly domestic visitors, are being flown home.

Vietnam, along with Thailand, has been hailed as a success story of the pandemic, having acted early to close its borders and enforce quarantine and contact tracing. The country has recorded just over 400 cases but not a single Covid-related death.

But in the past 5 days, 100 days since its last locally transmitted case, 14 new cases have emerged in Da Nang, and another was reported in nearby Quang Ngai Province. Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc yesterday ordered Da Nang residents to reimplement social distancing and close all nonessential services. He said the response must be “decisive” but he was not yet ordering a total lockdown of the city.

Vietnam’s health minister says analysis by scientists found that the strain of the virus in Da Nang has not previously been detected in the country.

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The first new case, patient #416, is a 57 year old man who sought medical care on July 20 for “flu symptoms”. He is now on a ventilator and in critical condition. Contact tracing identified more than 100 people who had interacted with the man, but all have tested negative at this stage.

Over the weekend, 3 more cases were confirmed, including a 17 year old from neighbouring Quang Ngai province, who had travelled home on a coach with people who had been at the Da Nang C Hospital. Da Nang C Hospital sealed its doors in response to that diagnosis.

Yesterday, a further 11 cases were confirmed. 7 are patients at a Da Nang hospital and 4 are medical staff. The hospital was not identified. The cases have raised fears that a second outbreak could be underway in Da Nang.

Hospitals across the country are also stepping up preventative measures, while the capital, Hanoi, is urging urging people to wear masks in public again.

Unlike many countries, Vietnam acted early on the pandemic, before it even had confirmed cases. It recognised that it did not have the resources to tackle widespread infection so it did everything possible to keep the virus out altogether, closing its borders to almost all visitors except returning citizens and requiring everyone entering the country to quarantine for 14 days. Most of its cases have been detected in quarantine.

An extensive contact tracing and testing operation also meant it was able to quickly quash local outbreaks.

Vietnam’s most famous foreign patient, a Scottish pilot who spent 68 days on a ventilator, was able to travel home earlier this month.


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