ho chi minh city to ban people from leaving homes amid surge in covid 19 infections - Ho Chi Minh City to ban people from leaving homes amid surge in Covid-19 infections

BANGKOK – Vietnam’s economic hub Ho Chi Minh City will ban people from leaving their homes from next Monday (Aug 23) as the daily rise in Covid-19 infections crossed the 10,000 mark.

While the authorities have yet to release the fuller details, this lockdown is expected to be the most stringent the country has imposed since the pandemic began.

According to local media reports, soldiers and policemen are expected to be activated to help enforce restrictions and send provisions to residents.

Mobile medical units will treat patients in their localities to ease the load on medical facilities.

Comparing each ward to a fortress and urging officials to coordinate the logistics of this lockdown carefully, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh was quoted by local media outlet Zing News telling officials on Thursday (Aug 19): “Don’t hesitate any longer, do what you have to do immediately, just like when you are dealing with a house on fire.”

Long queues formed outside supermarkets and pharmacies on Friday after residents got wind of the impending lockdown.

Before the announcement, they had already languished more than a month under Directive 16.

The strictest available social distancing measure, it shuts non-essential businesses, bans public gatherings and restricts public transport in the most Covid-19 afflicted areas. They also had to stay indoors from 6pm to 6am.

Last weekend, police turned back masses of jobless migrant workers trying to leave the city for their hometowns. Many had run out of money to pay for rent and food.

On Friday evening, Vietnam logged 10,657 new cases over the past 24-hour period.

The infections were concentrated in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as neighbouring manufacturing hubs like Binh Duong province.

City health authorities have attributed rising numbers to mass testing and more people using rapid test kits by themselves.

Mr Nguyen Hong Tam, the deputy director of the city’s Center for Disease Control (HCDC), told reporters on Thursday that the discovery of more infections now is helping authorities uncover and stamp out local transmissions swiftly. “We should not be too worried,” he said.

Locals, however, are getting increasingly frustrated about what they perceive to be a lack of coordination among officials.

Ms Tran Ngoc Ha, 42, is currently isolating herself at home after feeling fatigued and feverish and losing her sense of smell and taste late last month.

She told The Straits Times that she had been fearful of the crowded conditions at a mass testing centre that health authorities directed her to, but eventually was pressured to turn up.

Although her results came back negative, she started feeling ill three days after the Covid-19 test.

“I called the ward’s medical station, and they just told me to use painkillers. They said if I coughed, I should use some cough tablets. And they gave me an emergency phone number,” she said. “That’s all I got.”

Vietnam has one of lowest rates of vaccination in South-east Asia. As at Wednesday, less than 2 per cent of the population had been fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.

Additional reporting by Pham Lan Phuong

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