Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City extends coronavirus lockdown


FILE PHOTO: A man living in an area under lockdown receives food through a barricade during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam July 20, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

HANOI (Reuters) -Vietnam will extend a strict lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City until Aug. 1, its health ministry said on Friday, as the Southeast Asian country battles one of its most challenging and unpredictable COVID-19 outbreaks to date.

After successfully containing the virus for much of the pandemic, Vietnam has been facing a complicated outbreak of the virus, with southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces accounting for most new infections.

"Due to the rapid and unpredictable nature of the Delta variant and in order to protect people and minimise deaths, city authorities have decided to strengthen a number of measures to control the outbreak," Ho Chi Minh City's governing body said in a statement.

The number of services permitted to operate during the lockdown will be reduced, the health ministry said, citing Duong Anh Duc, deputy chairman of Ho Chi Minh City.

The current measures, which had been in place since July 9, include a stay-home order, a ban on gatherings larger than two people and the suspension of public transport services.

Banking and securities services in the city will be reduced to minimal levels, while unnecessary construction projects will be suspended, the ministry said in a statement.

A week-long disinfection spray in high-risk COVID-19 areas also has started, it added.

Since late April, when the current outbreak began, Vietnam has imposed restrictions on movement in about one third of its 63 cities and provinces, including in the capital Hanoi.

The Ministry of Health reported a record 7,307 cases on Friday, raising Vietnam's overall caseload to 81,678, with 370 deaths.

Ho Chi Minh City accounts for around 60% of total cases.

City authorities have asked Vietnam's prime minister for more personnel to help combat the current outbreak, the health ministry said in a Facebook post on Friday.

Vietnam, which has heavily relied on AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, is trying to accelerate its inoculation programme.

The country received 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, the largest shipment of its procurement so far. Around 4.4 million doses have been administered in the country, but fewer than 335,000 people have been fully vaccinated, official data showed.

(Editing by James Pearson and Paul Simao)

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