Panic shopping as Vietnam announces broad COVID-19 restrictions in largest city

  • Quarantine, tests for outgoing travelers
  • Public transport interrupted, gatherings prohibited
  • 1,000 new cases reported for day 3
  • Vietnam has strong COVID-19 containment record

HANOI, July 7 (Reuters) – Vietnam will impose strict movement restrictions at its Ho Chi Minh City shopping hub from the end of the week to fight a coronavirus outbreak, its health ministry said on Wednesday, in some of its most stringent restrictions to date.

Measures effective for 15 days from Friday include a stay-at-home order, a ban on assembling more than two people and a shutdown of public transport services, the ministry said.

“Fighting the pandemic is fighting the enemy,” city president Nguyen Thanh Phong said in a statement from the Ministry of Health.

“We must be willing to sacrifice short-term interests to prevent and combat the pandemic.”

The measures were widely anticipated, with panic buying around the city of 9 million people, the epicenter of the latest epidemic. State media reported unrest at a city jail where dozens of inmates were infected.

The health ministry said on Wednesday that travelers leaving the city would undergo a week of quarantine and testing at their destination, a day after dozens of flights were suspended to control the spread.

The capital Hanoi on Wednesday banned public gatherings of more than 10 people.

Vietnam reported more than 1,000 cases for the first time on Monday and similar figures on Tuesday and Wednesday, most in Ho Chi Minh City, where residents were rushing to stock up.

“A lot of the shelves are completely empty and I am very worried about the situation,” said Truong Thi Ngoc.

Vietnam’s overall case tally is low, having quickly contained most coronavirus outbreaks, but its current state has lasted for more than two months and around 40% of cases have been in the southern city.

It has 12,000 hospital beds prepared to treat coronavirus patients there, according to the Ministry of Health.

Traders said speculation over a strict lockdown caused Vietnam’s benchmark index (.VNI) to drop 4% on Tuesday. The index recovered 2.5% on Wednesday.

Editing by Martin Petty

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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