Rush to evacuate 80,000 people from Danang in Vietnam amid spike in Covid-19 cases

Mainly local tourists must leave the central tourism hot spot of Danang after three residents tested positive for the coronavirus.
A health worker gets the temperature of residents in Danang city, Vietnam, on July 26, 2020.
A health worker gets the temperature of residents in Danang city, Vietnam, on July 26, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK - Vietnamese tourists rushed to leave the central city of Danang on Monday as the government imposed stay-home measures there to contain fresh community transmission of Covid-19 , with 11 new cases confirmed on Monday (July 27).

With the source of infection still a mystery, police have stepped up mass inspection efforts to uncover illegal entrants.

Vietnam’s civil aviation authority had earlier given airlines the green light to boost capacity and increase the frequency of flights from Danang to help evacuate travellers among the 80,000 people estimated to be stranded in the city.

Mr Dinh Viet Thang, director-general of Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, had said: “Tourists who are stuck in Danang might run out of money and places to stay. If we do not solve this problem, more problems may arise.”

Until Saturday (July25), Vietnam was on course to cross 100 days without recording any case of local transmission after emerging from a nationwide lockdown. With the border still largely closed to foreign visitors, the country was also in the middle of a local tourism campaign to revive the economy.

But a new infection in the bustling coastal city of Danang confirmed on Saturday (July 25) – followed quickly by another three over the weekend in the same city and nearby Quang Ngai province – sparked an exodus of local travellers not wanting to get caught out by a lockdown.

Most of the 11 new Covid-19 cases confirmed on Monday were either staff or patients at Danang general hospital, which has been isolated.

Health officials earlier blamed the new infections on a more contagious strain of the coronavirus that had not been detected in Vietnam before.

For the next two weeks from Tuesday , Danang residents have to stay home unless heading to work in essential jobs, buying food or handling emergencies. They can gather in groups of no more than two in public. Transportation to and from Danang, as well as taxi services have been suspended. Supermarkets and markets remain open.

Festivals, religious ceremonies and sports events have already been suspended and non-essential businesses, like bars, closed.

“We have to be resolute, otherwise we will fail in this anti-pandemic campaign,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was quoted by local media outlet Vnexpress saying.

Authorities elsewhere are on alert for arrivals from Danang.

In Ho Chi Minh City, health officials declared that anyone who arrived in Danang from the start of the month (July 1) would be subject to compulsory health declaration and Covid-19 testing. In the northern provinces of Hai Phong and Bac Giang, a 14-day quarantine is now applicable to anyone who has returned from Danang since July 13.

There have been larger knock-on effects, with the suspension of domestic football league matches until further notice.

Meanwhile, police trying to stamp out the risk of imported infections have uncovered dozens of Chinese nationals who have entered Vietnam illegally and evaded its mandatory 14-day quarantine over the past month.

On Saturday, Vietnamese police arrested a Chinese man for allegedly being part of a ring that smuggled Chinese nationals into Danang and nearby Quang Nam province.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Vietnam has recorded 431 cases of infections and no deaths.