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Prime Minister declares nCoV epidemic, flights to and from China grounded

Update: February, 01/2020 - 17:00
Passengers at Nội Bài international airport in Hà Nội are advised to wear face masks. — VNA/VNS Photo 

HÀ NỘI — Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc just signed a decision declaring the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) an epidemic in Việt Nam, following the sixth confirmed case of infection in the country earlier today.

The declaration notes the starting date of the epidemic as January 23, where the first two cases of the pneumonia-like virus infection in Việt Nam were confirmed to be a pair of Chinese father and son originally from Wuhan, China.

The declaration notes that the outbreak is a “public health emergency of international concern,” in line with the announcement from World Health Organisation on January 30.

Earlier on January 29, nCoV was classified by Việt Nam’s health authorities to be a Class A contagious disease – a group of “extremely dangerous infectious diseases that can transmit very rapidly and spread widely with high mortality rates” that consists of the likes of influenza A-H5N1, SARS, Ebola or smallpox.

The scope of the epidemic is currently limited to three provinces – the south-central coastal provinces of Khánh Hoà, where a 25-year-old Vietnamese female receptionist tested positive for the virus following contacts with the abovementioned Chinese patients; the central province of Thanh Hoá and the northern province of Vĩnh Phúc, where the confirmed Vietnamese patients have all returned from Wuhan on the same flight of China Southern Airlines.

However, health authorities and hospitals have said all three are in stable condition while one of the Chinese patients has recovered.

To date, the country has recorded 92 suspected infection cases but 65 have tested negative for the virus and 27 are still being quarantined and put under close observation.

43 people who are in normal health condition and show no symptoms of nCoV are also being monitored in quarantined areas as they have had direct contacts with those suspected to contract the virus.

Also today, the Civil Aviation Authority of Việt Nam has announced that all permits granted for flights between Việt Nam and China (including Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Macau) have been temporarily revoked, effective starting 13:00pm Saturday until further notice.

On Friday, PM Phúc issued a directive on the intensification of measures against the nCoV, which said Việt Nam is facing a very high risk as it has a long border with China which sees busy activities.

Authorities have taken many strong and resolute measures against the disease, but in many localities the spirit and the perception on the work are yet to be high while concrete and proactive plans are yet to be worked out.

It further added 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 on special cases, and the entry and exit with border passes halted.

Localities are ordered to limit large gatherings, authorities forbidden to send Vietnamese workers to China, and trade and exchanges with China discouraged during the time of the epidemic.

The Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism has recommended postponing or cancelling traditional festivals which are yet to start, and for those which already began, their scale, duration and activities should be reduced, in the face of the threat of coronavirus. — VNS

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