Vietnam closes its third largest city as virus cases grow

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – Vietnam closed its third-largest city on Tuesday for two weeks after 22 hospital-linked COVID-19 cases were found, the government said.

The new cases in the central city of Da Nang are the first confirmed local transmission of the virus in the country in more than three months.

Public transportation in and out of Da Nang was canceled. Over the weekend, thousands of mostly Vietnamese tourists interrupted their summer vacations at the popular beach destination. The confinement dealt a severe blow to the city’s tourism industry, which had just revived after previous coronavirus cases disappeared in late April.

Hotel guests quickly ended their stays and canceled upcoming trips with the news of the first case, a hotelier said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“Our hotel is now empty,” said the hotelier. “But we had to help our guests leave the city when they had the opportunity yesterday.”

Da Nang’s beaches, which house about 50,000 people a day, are now closed. Only security personnel were seen on the beaches on Tuesday while on patrol to make sure no one was gathered.

Authorities estimated that several thousand people would be stranded by the shutdown of the transport and asked the hotels to house them.

“We didn’t want to run to the airport to get out of the city because of the risk of being in a crowded place. So now we are stuck here, ”said Lien Nguyen, who is traveling with her family of four for their summer vacation.

“But it is not a bad place to be stranded for two weeks,” he said.

On Sunday, the government ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and demanded that 1.1 million people practice social distancing in the city.

The 22 cases in the new outbreak are patients and health workers at Da Nang Hospital and family members.

With the new infections, Vietnam has reported 438 cases of COVID-19 without death.

There had been no local transmission of the virus since April, and all new cases came from abroad. Vietnam on Tuesday sent a plane to Equatorial Guinea to repatriate 129 workers who have COVID-19, the health ministry said.