About a third of Vietnam’s 100 million people must now stay home as multiple southern provinces went under Covid-19 lockdown on July 19.
The restrictions come a day after nearly 6,000 new infections were reported over 24 hours, a record for Vietnam.
Residents in the capital Hanoi were also asked – but not ordered – to remain at home, and all non-essential shops and services were forced to close. Gatherings of more than five people in public places are banned.
“The order from Hanoi authorities came so suddenly,” said resident Nguyen Thanh Van. “But I fully agree with it. We’d rather they come down hard to avoid a similar scenario to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
“We won in the previous battles. But this is a hard one.”
Business hub HCMC – where most new infections have been recorded – and the nearby Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces have been in lockdown for more than a week.
But cases kept rising. In response, the government ordered 16 more provinces into lockdown starting on July 19.
After successfully containing coronavirus outbreaks last year, Vietnam has seen cases skyrocket since late April, with the epicentre moving south from the industrial areas in the north.
In HCMC, authorities have built several makeshift hospitals that can host thousands of patients.
The number of domestic flights to the area has been reduced.
As restrictions tightened, the city’s residents complained that getting essential goods was difficult after wholesale and open-air markets closed.
At present, “we give priority to protecting people’s health”, said Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, according to the government’s official news site.
Vietnam recorded a total of 55,845 cases and 254 deaths on July 19.
Backed by its successful containment of the virus, Vietnam was one of the few economies to expand last year.
The economy grew 5.64 per cent, in line with government expectations, in the first half of this year.
The Southeast Asian country has been slow to procure and administer vaccines, with just 4.3 million doses given so far.
Vietnam is also developing its own shots, and hopes to reach herd immunity by early next year, authorities said.
Deputy health minister Tran Van Thuan told a meeting of the special working group on Covid-19 vaccine development and clinical trials on July 17 that Vietnam is striving to have at least one successful domestically developed coronavirus jab this year.
Delegates discussed a plan to invite experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to support research and development of a jab in the country.
This, they said, would help the research and clinical trials of Nanocovax and Covivac vaccines, two candidates making the most progress in the four under development in the country.
This came after the delegates heard the general report from the health ministry’s Department of Science, Technology and Training on the current progress of research and clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines in Vietnam as well as production technology transfer matters.
The delegates also agreed on a technology transfer cooperation plan and conducting clinical trials of foreign vaccines that would be licensed for production in Vietnam.
The health ministry will soon submit to the government a plan to use the budget from the National Covid-19 Vaccine Fund to support the implementation of Phase II clinical trials for domestically developed vaccines as well as transferred jabs.
The ministry will also request the government to direct relevant ministries and agencies to coordinate with them in participating in clinical trial studies to ensure safety, progress and efficiency.
Nanogen, the developer of the Nano Covax vaccine, last week said it has administered the first jab to 13,000 volunteers in its Phase III human trials, with the second dose expected to be given before end of next month, eyeing full clinical data for reviews this year.
The Covivac vaccine, developed by the Institution of Vaccine and Biological Medical in Nha Trang city, wrapped up Phase I late last month and plans to carry out Phase II soon.
AFP, VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK