Vietnam braces for a fresh wave of coronavirus despite earlier success in containing the outbreak

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A propaganda poster on preventing the spread of Covid-19 is seen on a wall as a man smokes a cigarette along a street in Hanoi on April 29, 2020.

Manan Vatsyayana | AFP | Getty Images

Vietnam, once praised for its success in containing the coronavirus outbreak, is now battling a resurgence in cases and has warned that the disease could spread wider across the country.

The Southeast Asian country — which shares a border with China, where the virus first emerged — had not recorded any locally transmitted cases for more than three months before a 57-year-old resident of the central city of coastal Danang was tested positive for the coronavirus disease on Saturday, said the Vietnamese government.

The patient had no travel history domestically or internationally over the past month, the government said. But Reuters reported that tens of thousands of domestic tourists have been on vacation in the coastal city.

Authorities are preparing to evacuate the roughly 80,000 tourists in Danang. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc warned on Wednesday that every province and city in the country is at risk of more infections, reported Reuters, citing state broadcaster Vietnam Television.

To be clear, the 450 total confirmed cases reported in Vietnam as of Wednesday remain relatively small for a nation with a population of around 97 million. The country also has not recorded any deaths relating to the coronavirus.

But the renewed outbreak in Vietnam underscores the difficulties governments face in containing the fast-spreading disease. That’s the case even for a country that was internationally hailed as a potential model for other developing countries in managing the coronavirus outbreak.

The Vietnamese government’s online newspaper VGP said on Monday that preliminary epidemiological investigations showed some of the new cases detected in Danang were linked to three hospitals in the city. Genome analysis also revealed that “this is a new type of Covid-19, which is more infectious,” said Acting Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long.

Authorities have tightened containment measures in Danang, such as stepping up contact tracing, limiting crowd sizes and halting non-essential services. Flights to and from the city have also been temporarily suspended.

On Wednesday, Vietnam reported new cases in its two biggest cities — Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City — which were attributed to people who visited Danang in the last few weeks.

Reuters, citing city authorities, reported that around 18,000 people who visited Danang returned to Ho Chi Minh City and another 21,000 went home to Hanoi.

Resurgence in Asia

Vietnam is not the only Asian country or territory facing a fresh jump in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, on Wednesday warned that the city is on the cusp of a large-scale outbreak that may overload its health-care facilities and cost lives. Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, had earlier managed to contain its outbreak — which allowed it to avoid a lockdown.

But the Hong Kong government imposed stricter measures this week.

Taiwan, also seen as success story in containing the virus, said on Tuesday that it was investigating its first possible local transmitted case in more than a month, reported Reuters. A Thai migrant worker — who arrived on the island in January — tested positive for the disease just days after returning to Thailand, according to the report.

— CNBC’s Abigail Ng contributed to this report

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