Vietnam’s Ministry of Health confirmed four COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the country’s total to 207, with two foreigners declared free of the virus the same day.
The four new patients include three in Ho Chi Minh City and one in Hanoi.
Among the country’s total of 207 patients, 57 have been pronounced clear of the novel coronavirus, according to the ministry. No fatality has been recorded.
Two foreigners were confirmed to have fully recovered from the disease on Tuesday, one of whom had been treated in the central city of Hue and the other in Ho Chi Minh City.
The two will be isolated for 14 more days in accordance with the health ministry’s regulations.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a directive on Tuesday that Vietnam would go into nationwide social distancing on Wednesday.
The social distancing will last until the end of April 15, at a time when the Southeast Asian country is trying to contain the disease by all means.
“Households are advised to keep a distance from households, villages from villages, communes from communes, districts from districts, and provinces from provinces,” according to the directive.
Citizens are requested to stay home and only leave the house under truly necessary circumstances such as journeys for food, medicine, emergency care or for working at essential businesses, factories, and services that have been allowed to continue operating.
Everyone is advised to maintain a minimum distance of two meters in social interaction and the government bans any gathering of more than two people outside public offices, schools, hospitals, and in public spaces in general.
Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung clarified after the issuance of the directive that this is not going to be a national lockdown, as some may have misunderstood it.
“This social distancing is not a lockdown or a ban but it is a measure to repond to the complicated developments of the disease,” Minister Dung told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Vietnam has recorded 191 cases since March 6, when patient No. 17 was confirmed.
The country’s first batch of 16 patients had been discharged from the hospital by February 26 and no infection was documented from February 13 to March 5.
The social distancing measure is just a caution for citizens and does not mean a blanket ban on their travel outside their home, the chairman explained.
"The directive includes drastic measures to restrict movement and mass gatherings in order to stall the virus spread," he elaborated.
Places selling basic essentials like wet markets, supermarkets, and pharmacies will still be open during the 15 days of nationwide social distancing, Chairman Dung said.
The administration in each province and centrally-administered city will decide on which store and factory can continue operating, he added.