from Taylor Edgar in Hanoi

8am update: The government has in the last hour announced a 10pm curfew effective immediately. Anyone breaking the curfew will be arrested

A 10-year-old boy in Ho Chi Minh City has become the 204th coronavirus case in Vietnam, as the government declares a national epidemic and prepares to lockdown the country’s two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The last few days have seen a spike in Covid19 cases despite the country’s early interventions as soon as the epidemic emerged in Wuhan, some 840 miles north of the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.

The sudden rise in cases can be attributed to outbreaks in Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, one of Vietnam’s largest hospitals, a company supplying the hospital’s food, and a bar in Ho Chi Minh City.

There have been orders issued for all businesses to close except essential services and food shops. Most people are now working from home as the streets empty, and bus services are suspended until April 15. Fines are also being imposed on people who are not wearing face masks while outside.

As of Sunday, all international passenger flights to Vietnam were suspended and flights between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other localities limited in the coming two weeks.

Three months in and there are still no deaths attributed to Covid19. In fact, yesterday 55 people were discharged from hospital after fully recovering.

Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc said yesterday that now is “a decisive time in Vietnam’s fight against Covid-19” and called on everyone to “stay at home and work online,” except for special cases or visits to hospitals, stores, supermarkets, and manufacturing facilities.

"We cannot be neglectful. We have rolled out many strong measures but on the streets, on the beaches, there are still many people and in some places, the policy of not gathering more than 20 people is not strictly implemented," he said, adding that social distancing was a must at this time.

"People should stay in their own province, their own district and their home for at least 15 days," he said.

People in Hanoi are now making shopping trips for food in the expectation of an imminent lockdown comparable to that in the West.

 

Thomas Taylor Edgar