Primary school students wear facemasks on Hà Nội’s Book Street. — VNA/VNS Photo Lâm Khánh
HÀ NỘI — As the World Health Organisation declared an international emergency over the outbreak of coronavirus, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) on Friday said it was considering closing all schools, universities and colleges.
Many universities in Hà Nội and HCM City are closed until February 9 due to concerns over the spreading epidemic.
Hà Nội University of Sciences and Technology (HUST), University of Mining and Geology and HCM City-based Văn Lang University are the among higher education institutes prolonging the Tết (Lunar New Year) Holiday break for their students.
In its announcement, HUST asked students to stay at home, avoid crowds and impose protective measures.
Schools in Hà Nội have put mechanisms in place to protect their students.
Nguyễn Hương Ly, deputy principal of Maya Kindergarten in Long Biên District, said they regularly sterilise the whole school, request parents and students to wash hands thoroughly before entering the campus, set air-conditioners at 25 Celsius degree and temporarily stop admitting any student with any symptoms of infection.
“Many parents have let their children stay home, waiting for the epidemic to be over,” she said.
Vũ Khánh Linh in Hai Bà Trưng District whose seven-year-old daughter is a student of Hà Nội Educational Technology School, said she had concerns about sending her child back to school.
“I feel unsafe letting my daughter go to school as new cases keep being reported,” she said.
“Although the school asks parents and students to wear masks, it is better to have her home, at the same time, following the disease’s development. There are six other students absent from her class as well.”
According to the Ministry of Health, as of 11am on Friday, Việt Nam has reported five cases of coronavirus infection including two Chinese citizens (one of them was given all-clear) and three Vietnamese citizens returning from China’s Wuhan city. The number of suspected cases with symptoms of fever, cough, from infected areas is 97 including 65 cases tested negative and 32 others in quarantine.
The rest of 43 cases, despite showing no signs of fever or cough, are still being quarantined because the patients have had direct contact with people suspected to be infected.
According to Trần Đắc Phu, former director of the Preventive Health Department, Việt Nam has not declared a coronavirus outbreak as no case of person-to-person transmission has been reported and the five cases of coronavirus reported so far are due to contact with infected people outside of Việt Nam.
“Due to the current situation, we have not recommended the education sector to allow students to stay at home,” he said.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Health established 45 rapid response teams to deal with the disease.
Combating fake news
Several Facebook users across Việt Nam have been summoned for spreading fake news about coronavirus.
Hải Phòng City Police on Thursday fined a Facebooker named Vũ Thị N.T. VNĐ10 million (US$432) for making a post saying “Hải Phòng City reports a case of suspected coronavirus infection which is now being quarantined at Việt Tiệp Hospital” on January 26.
The post had been shared more than 600 times before being removed at 10pm on the same day.
On the same day, Huế City Police fined Hà Lê T.N. VNĐ12.5 million ($539) for falsely announcing a case of coronavirus at Huế Central Hospital on her Facebook page and sharing the post on other community groups, triggering local residents’ fears.
Provinces of Bình Thuận and Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, earlier on January 28, also handled two cases of spreading fake news over the disease.
On Friday, Hà Nội Department of Information and Communications asked newspapers to collaborate with MoH in giving out recommendations for people to adopt protective measures, stay calm, and coordinate with the health sector to prevent the epidemic.
Aid to China
The Vietnamese Government has decided to provide aid with medical equipment and goods worth US$500,000 to the Chinese government and people to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.
The Việt Nam Red Cross has also mobilised aid worth $100,000 in seven northern provinces to assist Chinese people, especially those living along the two countries’ border.
Earlier on January 27, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc had a phone call with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Phúc said he appreciated the timely guidance of the Chinese Communist Party and leaders, as well as great efforts of local authorities and residents in combating the epidemic.
He said Việt Nam was ready to join China in the fight against the disease.
Also on Friday, the PM issued a directive on intensifying measures against the virus.
The directive says Việt Nam is facing a very high risk as it has a long and busy border with China. Authorities have taken measures against the disease, but in many localities, the spirit and the perception of the urgent work are yet to be high while plans are yet to be worked out.
The Government leader ordered authorities, organisations and individuals to strictly implement the PM’s directives on January 23 and 28, as well as the Party Central Committee’s document on January 30.
Localities sharing a border with China must establish communications channels with their Chinese peers to intensify the work, the granting of permission for all flights from China’s affected areas to Việt Nam and vice versa be suspended except for special cases approved by the PM, the directive says.
It adds that the issuance of tourist visas to foreign visitors who are or were in China in the past two weeks must also be suspended except official visas in special cases, and entry and exit with border passes must be halted.
Localities were ordered to limit large gatherings, authorities forbidden to send Vietnamese workers to China, and trade and exchanges with China has been discouraged during the epidemic.
The Ministry of Health must work out a plan and measures to cope with and control the disease, to be submitted to the PM by Sunday, the Ministry of Information and Communication must intensify the information and communication on the situation and measures against the disease, and the people are asked to take the advice of authorities.
Airlines halt many routes to China
Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific and Vietjet have become the latest Vietnamese airlines to recuce the number of flights linking the country with China in the face of the acute respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus (nCoV).
On Friday, they announced changes to flights between the two countries, saying the move aims to protect passengers’ health and help contain the spread of the virus.
Vietjet has cancelled all flights to and from China from today.
Accordingly, Vietnam Airlines will suspend the Hà Nội-Hong Kong route starting on February 6 and reduce the frequency of the HCM City-Hong Kong route from 10 flights to seven flights per week.
It said that after returning from China, aircraft will be sterilised to curb nCoV transmission risks.
Meanwhile, Jetstar Pacific is also suspending the routes of Hà Nội-Hong Kong as from February 6, Hà Nội-Guangzhou from February 9 and HCM City-Guangzhou from February 11. — VNS