Vietnam has reported nine new COVID-19 infections as the country’s first outbreak for nearly two months spread to the capital Hanoi, where the ruling Communist party is currently holding its five-yearly congress.
The new cases, including one in Hanoi and eight in nearby Haiphong city and the provinces of Hai Duong, Quang Ninh and Bac Ninh, brought the total number of cases in the outbreak that began on Thursday to 93, the Ministry of Health said.
One of the first two cases recorded on Thursday was exposed to an individual who had tested positive in Japan for the more contagious UK variant. The ministry said it was still analysing gene sequences to determine if the new patients had contracted the new variant.
Vietnam’s total number of cases recorded since the coronavirus was first detected in the country a year ago stands at 1,651, including imported cases, with 35 deaths.
The ministry said the case in Hanoi is linked to an airport worker in Quang Ninh province who tested positive on Thursday along with 83 others, the first locally transmitted cases in the country for 55 days and the biggest single-day outbreak so far.
Early on Friday authorities imposed a lockdown at a 27-floor apartment building in a central Hanoi district where the person who tested positive lives, state media reported. All residents in the block, home to hundreds of people, were asked to remain in their apartments until further notice.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged calm and promised swift action at an urgently called meeting on the sidelines of the congress on Thursday, when the wearing of face masks at the event was made mandatory.
At an urgent meeting on Thursday night, Hanoi authorities said they were ramping up tracking and testing capabilities, adding that the city can conduct 10,000 tests a day. State television quoted the coronavirus taskforce chief as saying preparations should be made for a scenario of up to 30,000 COVID-19 cases.