HANOI, July 23 (Reuters) – Vietnam will extend the lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City until August 1 and impose tighter 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 faced a complicated outbreak of the virus, with the southern shopping center of Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces accounting for most of the new infections.
The health ministry reported a record 7,307 infections on Friday, bringing the total number of cases in Vietnam to 81,678. At least 370 people in the country have died from the virus.
“Due to the rapid and unpredictable nature of the Delta variant and in order to protect people and minimize deaths, city authorities have decided to strengthen a number of measures to control the outbreak,” said the Ho Chi Minh City’s governing body in a statement.
The number of services allowed to operate during the lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City will be reduced, the health ministry said, citing Duong Anh Duc, vice president of the city.
Current measures, which were in place since July 9, include a stay-at-home order, a ban on gatherings of more than two people and the suspension of public transport services.
Banking and securities services in Ho Chi Minh City will be cut to minimal levels, while unnecessary construction projects will be put on hold, the ministry said in a statement.
A week-long disinfection spray in areas at high risk for COVID-19 has also started, he added.
Hanoi will impose similar strict measures for 15 days from Saturday morning, authorities in the capital announced Friday evening, following a wave of new infections in recent days, including 48 on Friday.
“The risk of the disease spreading in the city is very high, which requires strong preventive measures,” 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 the end of April, had advised people to stay indoors and closed cafes and restaurants earlier this month.
Nationally, Vietnam has imposed movement restrictions in about a 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 the Vietnamese prime minister to strengthen his staff to help tackle the current epidemic, the health ministry said in a Facebook post on Friday. .
Vietnam, which has relied heavily on AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine, is trying to speed up its vaccination program.
The country has so far received more than 10.2 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine. About 4.4 million doses have been administered nationwide, but fewer than 335,000 people have been fully immunized, according to official data.
Editing by James Pearson and Paul Simao
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