Fears of tighter Covid-19 curbs trigger panic-buying in Ho Chi Minh City

A warning sign is seen outside an area slapped with a quarantine order in Ho Chi Minh City, on June 1, 2021.
A warning sign is seen outside an area slapped with a quarantine order in Ho Chi Minh City, on June 1, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI (REUTERS) - Anticipation of stricter movement curbs caused panic-buying in Vietnam's economic hub Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday (July 7), the epicentre of its coronavirus outbreak, while media reported unrest at a city jail where dozens of inmates were infected.

The health ministry said outbound travellers from the city of  nine million people would be subjected to a week of quarantine and testing at their destinations, a day after dozens of flights were suspended to control the spread.

Shelves at supermarkets were being emptied since late Tuesday, witnesses said, in preparation for tighter measures, as the country reported more than 1,000 new daily coronavirus cases for the first time.

"They have bought everything, and now I can't buy any food for my kids, not even eggs," said a witness, who wanted to be known as Huong.

Resident Truong Thi Ngoc said wet markets had closed and finding food was difficult. 

Vietnam has quickly contained most coronavirus outbreaks but its current one has lasted more than two months. Ho Chi Minh City recorded 617 of the 677 new cases reported nationwide by early afternoon on Wednesday.

Traders said speculation about a lockdown caused a 4 per cent plunge in Vietnam's benchmark index on Tuesday. It recovered 2.5 per cent on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh assigned two deputies to tackle the Ho Chi Minh City outbreak.

On Tuesday, he said it was necessary to put human lives first and that there could be some economic disruption.

A riot broke out at the city's Chi Hoa Prison on Tuesday night, when screams and gunshots were heard, VnExpress and state-run VTV reported. The reports said the jail was conducting testing after 81 inmates and wardens were infected.