Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City extends Covid-19 lockdown

The number of services permitted to operate during the lockdown will be reduced. PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI (REUTERS) - Vietnam will extend a strict lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City until Aug 1, state media reported on Friday (July 23), as the South-east Asian country battles one of its most challenging and unpredictable Covid-19 outbreaks to date.

After successfully containing the virus for much of the pandemic, Vietnam has been facing a complicated outbreak of the virus, with southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces accounting for most new infections.

"Due to the rapid and unpredictable nature of the Delta variant and in order to protect people and minimise deaths, city authorities have decided to strengthen a number of measures to control the outbreak," Ho Chi Minh City's governing body said in a statement.

The number of services permitted to operate during the lockdown will be reduced, the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing Ho Chi Minh City deputy chairman Duong Anh Duc.

The current measures, which had been in place since July 9, include a stay-home order, a ban on gatherings larger than two people and the suspension of public transport services.

Banking and securities services in the city will be reduced to minimal levels, while unnecessary construction projects will be suspended, the Tuoi Tre report said.

A week-long disinfection spray in high-risk Covid-19 areas also has started, it added.

Since late April, when the current outbreak began, Vietnam has imposed movement restrictions in about one third of its 63 cities and provinces, including in the capital Hanoi.

The Ministry of Health reported a record 7,307 cases on Friday, raising Vietnam's overall caseload to 81,678, with 370 deaths.

Ho Chi Minh City accounts for around 60 per cent of total cases in the country.

City authorities have asked Vietnam's Prime Minister for more personnel to help combat the current outbreak, the health ministry said in a Facebook post on Friday.

Vietnam, which has heavily relied on AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, is trying to accelerate its inoculation programme.

The country received 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, the largest shipment of its procurement so far.

Around 4.4 million doses have been administered in the country, but fewer than 335,000 people have been fully vaccinated, official data showed.

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