BINH XUYEN (Vietnam) • More than 10,000 people in villages near Vietnam's capital were placed under quarantine yesterday after six coronavirus cases were discovered there, said the authorities.
In the first mass quarantine outside of China since the virus emerged there in late December, the Son Loi farming region, about 40km from Hanoi, will be locked down for 20 days, said the Health ministry.
Checkpoints have been set up around the six villages that make up Son Loi, said an Agence France-Presse (AFP) team on the outskirts of the area in Binh Xuyen district.
Health officials wearing protective suits sprayed disinfectant on vehicles.
Police warned people wanting to enter the quarantine area that while they would be allowed in, they would not be able to leave.
The order came after the Health Ministry reported that five people had been infected with the virus. It later announced a sixth case.
They all originated from a female worker who was sent for training in Wuhan in central China - the epicentre of the outbreak.
The virus spread to her family and her neighbours, including a three-month-old baby.
So far, the female worker has fully recovered and been discharged from hospital, according to updates from the ministry, while the others remain in a stable condition.
The Son Loi area of roughly 1,000ha is made up of farmland. Many of the 10,600 residents commute to nearby factories for short-term labour jobs.
NOT SO WELCOME
Life has been badly affected... Now we cannot get out and even if we do, clients don't welcome us as much as before.
VILLAGER TRAN VAN MINH, who says much of the labour force is reliant on jobs in construction and house painting.
Villager Tran Van Minh told AFP that the authorities advised them to avoid large gatherings, though the cluster of infections in his village likely began due to the Tet (Lunar New Year) celebrations last week.
"The woman infected her family and neighbours after Tet visits," he said, adding that he and his family were in good health.
But "life has been badly affected", he told AFP by telephone, adding that much of the labour force is reliant on jobs in construction and house painting. "Now we cannot get out and even if we do, clients don't welcome us as much as before."
The Son Loi authorities began handing out face masks after the Tet holiday ended on Jan 30. Since then, children and the elderly have mostly been confined to their homes.
Mr Minh said he was not worried about running out of food, but he hoped "the epidemic will end soon".
Close to 1,400 people have died in China from the virus and nearly 60,000 others have been infected since it was first detected in December.
China has imposed quarantines across Hubei, locking in about 56 million people, in a bid to stop it spreading.
Tens of millions of others in cities far from the epicentre are also under travel restrictions.
Vietnam, which shares a porous border with China, has 16 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including those in Son Loi.
It had banned all flights to and from mainland China in a bid to stop the virus from spreading. It also suspended new tourist visas for Chinese nationals or foreigners who had been in China over the past two weeks.