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Vietnamese cities seek to quarantine arrivals from South Korea, Japan

Monday, February 24, 2020, 14:46 GMT+7
Vietnamese cities seek to quarantine arrivals from South Korea, Japan
Passengers exchange currency at a counter, which gives away free face masks, at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Phan Cong / Tuoi Tre

Authorities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have suggested imposing quarantine restrictions on people arriving from South Korea and Japan, as the numbers of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in these countries have shot up in recent days.

South Korea reported 161 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected patients in the country to 763, health authorities said on Monday, a day after the government raised its infectious disease alert to the highest level.

Meanwhile, authorities in Japan had confirmed 773 cases by early Sunday evening, most of them from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo.

Ho Chi Minh City is at a very high risk of COVID-19 penetration from South Korea because it regularly receives a large number of passengers arriving from or passing through the East Asian country, the municipal Department of Health said on Sunday.

The health department has therefore sought permission from the Vietnamese Ministry of Health to require medical declarations from people arriving from or traveling through South Korea upon entry in the southern metropolis.

It also requested guidance on applying quarantine restrictions to people arriving from or traveling through South Korea.

From 3:00 pm on Sunday, people who enter Vietnam from South Korea have been required to declare their medical condition while going through immigration at Vietnamese ports of entry, the Ministry of Health said in a letter sent to local administrations on Monday morning.

On Sunday evening, Hanoi chairman Nguyen Duc Chung chaired an extraordinary meeting on the prevention of the COVID-19 epidemic in light of unusual developments of the viral disease in South Korea and Japan.

At the meeting, Hanoi’s Department of Health deputy director Hoang Duc Hanh proposed imposing home isolation on foreigners from the COVID-19 epicenters in Japan and South Korea, and placing Vietnamese people returning from those areas in quarantine at medical facilities.

According to Hanh, Vietnam’s airlines currently operate four flights weekly between the southeastern Korean city of Daegu, where more than half of South Korea’s COVID-19 cases have been reported, and Cam Ranh International Airport in the south-central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa.

There has been one case – a Vietnamese student returning to the northern Vietnamese province of Thai Binh from Daegu – being put in quarantine at a local general hospital, while a taxi driver who drove the overseas student home from Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi has also been placed under home isolation, Hanh told the meeting.

Speaking at the event, chairman Chung asked for cooperation from the capital’s military command in case Vietnam has to evacuate citizens from South Korea and Japan.

Around 200,000 Vietnamese live and work in South Korea, according to the Vietnam News Agency. A 2019 report by Japanese broadcaster NHK put the number of Vietnamese in Japan at over 300,000.

The COVID-19 has killed 2,522 people and infected over 79,300 globally since it first hit the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, according to the South China Morning Post.

Vietnam has so far confirmed 16 cases of the viral infection, including 13 Vietnamese, one Vietnamese American, and two Chinese.

Among them, 15 have fully recovered and been released from the hospital. The country has recorded no new infection since Thursday last week.

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