Hanoi goes into lockdown as Covid-19 cases soar

Authorities reported more than 7,000 new infections across the nation on July 23, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HANOI (AFP) - Vietnam locked down eight million people in Hanoi on Saturday (July 24), the latest attempt to curb a serious coronavirus outbreak that has already forced a third of the country to stay home.

Vietnam's health ministry reported 7,968 coronavirus infections on Saturday, a record daily increase and up from Friday's record of 7,307.

The centre of the normally bustling capital was empty and shops were shuttered as the lockdown came into force, although people could still be seen on the streets in the outskirts of the city.

"I think people in Hanoi such as myself agree with the city's sudden decision of locking down the city," said local resident Nguyen Van Chien.

"We have to take economic risks to fight the pandemic," he added.

After successfully containing limited coronavirus outbreaks last year, Vietnam has seen cases skyrocket since late April.

About a third of Vietnam's 100 million people are already subject to lockdown orders.

But the outbreak has showed few signs of slowing and southern commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City - which has recorded the majority of recent cases - extended its stay-at-home order on Friday.

"I have been indoors for a month. The situation in our city is scary," resident Le Bich Thanh told AFP.

The authorities began a campaign to disinfect the entire city, which they say will take a week. Vietnam was one of the few economies that expanded last year due to its success in containing the virus during the first wave of the pandemic.

But the South-east Asian country has been slow to procure and administer vaccines, with just almost 4.5 million doses given so far.

It is also developing its own inoculations and the authorities say they hope to reach herd immunity by early 2022.

Vietnam has a policy of hospitalising all virus carriers, putting medical workers and hospitals under huge strain, although the rule has been lifted in some areas.

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