The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has announced that all flights to and from China would be grounded from Saturday to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
The flight ban took effect from 1:00 pm on Saturday and applies to all flights between Vietnam and China, including those already licensed for takeoff.
The grounding is in line with a government directive on Friday on enhancing measures to prevent a pneumonia outbreak caused by the 2019-nCoV, CAAV said.
Accordingly, all flights between destinations in Vietnam and China will not be licensed to take off from Saturday while previously issued licenses are voided until the ban is lifted.
Following the new order, Vietnam Airlines said on Saturday the airline and its subsidiary Jetstar Pacific Airlines will suspend their flights to mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan with effect from Saturday.
The national flag carrier had said late on Friday it would suspend flights to China from Thursday next week and cut flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong to seven from ten per week.
"Considering how widespread the virus is and following the government's order, all flights to China will be suspended from today," the company said in its latest statement.
Plans to bring Vietnamese citizens back from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong will be further updated in later announcements, the carrier added.
Budget carrier Vietjet said on Friday it will suspend all flights to and from China from February 1.
On Thursday, Vietnam said it would stop issuing visas for Chinese tourists.
Hundreds of passengers checking in and waiting to board two Vietnam Airlines flights and one Bamboo Airways flight to China at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi were affected by the sudden ban on Saturday afternoon.
“Most passengers were understanding and complied with the ban without causing any disturbance,” an airport representative told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Vietnam is the latest country to impose extraordinary travel barriers after the virus spread to two dozen nations and killed 259 people in China where it originated in the city of Wuhan.
The United States temporarily barred entry to foreigners who had been in China within the past two weeks and Australia said it was barring entry to non-citizens arriving from China.
Italy, Singapore and Mongolia have also taken similar sweeping precautions.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency on Thursday but did not advise international trade of travel restrictions.
Vietnam's announcement came after the country confirmed its sixth case of the coronavirus.
A 25-year-old hotel receptionist working in Nha Trang contracted the SARS-like pathogen after coming into contact with Chinese tourists who were later diagnosed with coronavirus.
She was also the first domestic infection for a Vietnamese national with no known history of travel to China.
Three of the country's six cases were Vietnamese nationals who had traveled to Wuhan.
The receptionist's health is "stable, no fever or cough", a hospital staffer told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding she had "no history of travel to China recently".
Vietnam has joined Thailand, China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, France, and the United States as the only countries with confirmed domestic coronavirus infections.