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Vietnam's biggest cities tighten restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge

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By Reuters
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HANOI -Vietnam will extend a lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City until Aug. 1 and impose stricter restrictions in the capital Hanoi from Saturday, as the Southeast Asian country battles its worst wave of COVID-19 infections.

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.

The Ministry of Health reported a record 7,307 infections on Friday, raising Vietnam’s overall caseload to 81,678. At least 370 people in the country have died as a result of the virus.

“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 in Ho Chi Minh City will be reduced, the health ministry said, citing Duong Anh Duc, the city’s deputy chairman.

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 Ho Chi Minh City will be reduced to minimal levels, while unnecessary construction projects will be suspended, the ministry said in a statement.

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

Hanoi will impose similar strict measures for 15 days starting from Saturday morning, authorities in the capital said late on Friday, following a wave of new infections over the past few days, including 48 on Friday.

“The risk for the disease to spread in the city is very high, requiring strong measures to prevent,” Chu Ngoc Anh, chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee, said in a statement.

Hanoi, which has recorded more than 600 COVID-19 infections since late April, had advised people to stay indoors and closed cafes and restaurants earlier this month.

Nationwide, Vietnam has imposed restrictions on movement in about one-third of its 63 cities and provinces since the outbreak began in late April.

Ho Chi Minh City, which accounts for around 60% of the total cases, has 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 has so far received more than 10.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine. Around 4.4 million doses have been administered in the country, but fewer than 335,000 people have been fully vaccinated, official data showed.