Vietnam’s government on Friday ordered all nonessential businesses to close for at least two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, marking another inflection point in the country’s toughening COVID-19 response amid the global pandemic.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said shopping malls, in-restaurant dining, bars, and other businesses that do not provide basic necessities must shut starting at midnight.
Unnecessary gatherings of more than 20 people were also banned. The prime minister also encouraged businesses to allow staff to work from home if possible.
Although the ban did not take effect until midnight, the normally bustling streets in Hanoi’s old quarter were quiet Friday afternoon.
Kim Anh, a shop owner, said the closures would hurt the economy but are needed at this crucial moment in the fight against the pandemic. She was selling face masks in front of her closed silk and souvenir shop.
Vietnam has already shut schools and canceled festivals and sporting events, and Phuc’s announcement comes as Vietnam continues to confront its coronavirus challenge, including cases from returning residents to the country.
Vietnam has reported 153 cases of the coronavirus so far, including 20 people who have been cured and discharged from hospitals. Meanwhile, over the last few days, several Southeast Asian countries, including Laos and Myanmar, have reported their first cases, with all 11 nations in the region now having cases and COVID-19 truly going regional.
Thus far, Vietnam has quarantined nearly 60,000 people who entered the country from virus-infected nations or had contact with infected people, according to the health ministry. Hanoi’s tough approach has been credited by some for keeping case numbers at a manageable level, though there are lingering questions about the country’s ability to sustain this over time.
By The Associated Press, with additional reporting by The Diplomat.