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Lockdown lifted on Buddha bar, Saigon’s COVID-19 epicenter

Lockdown lifted on Buddha bar, Saigon’s COVID-19 epicenter

Friday, April 24, 2020, 14:26 GMT+7
Lockdown lifted on Buddha bar, Saigon’s COVID-19 epicenter
Two foreigners ride a motorbike past the sealed-off Buddha bar in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City in this undated file photo. Photo: T.T.D. / Tuoi Tre

A lockdown imposed on Buddha bar in Ho Chi Minh City was lifted on Thursday, more than a month since the first novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient was traced to the infection hotspot.

According to a decision by the People’s Committee of District 2, the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control agreed to remove the blockade at the Buddha bar on Thursday afternoon.

Despite the lockdown removal, the bar cannot reopen until further announcement by the city, officials told the owners on Thursday.

Bars, beer clubs, and discos are among businesses asked to stay shuttered even after social distancing measures have been eased in the southern metropolis from Thursday, after three weeks of enhanced restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The Buddha bar’s owners were requested to proactively practice COVID-19 prevention measures after the lockdown period.

When it is given permission to reopen, the bar must ensure customers wear face masks and stay at least two meters away from one another on the premises.

The venue has to be equipped with hand sanitizer and sinks, and be cleaned and disinfected at least twice before reopening and two times a day during its operations.

Situated in Thao Dien Ward in District 2 — a neighborhood populated with high-end villas and a vibrant community of foreigners in Ho Chi Minh City — the hyper-popular bar had been frequented by both foreign and local visitors.

A 43-year-old British pilot was confirmed as Vietnam’s 91st COVID-19 patient after attending a Saint Patrick’s Day party there on March 14.

The bar, as well as the residential areas of partygoers, was sealed off promptly afterward.

Since the first infected case was detected at the bar, at least 18 other people who could be traced back to the party have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, making the facility the biggest cluster of infections in southern Vietnam to date.

During Thursday afternoon’s working session, authorities asked the bar owners to fix its operational violations, including displaying a name different from the one on its business license and offering services beyond the scope of its business registration.

The bar is registered on paper as a Thai food restaurant under the name of ‘Bvddha,’ according to District 2 chairman Nguyen Phuoc Hung.

The owners were also requested to remove decorations including paintings and statues of the Buddha inside the facility as well as its ‘Buddha’ signboard, which has been found to be religiously offensive.

In response to the requests, Tran Thi Thuy Du, representing those running the bar, promised to resolve the issues regarding the signboard and the use of Buddha decorations.

Thu also pledged to strictly implement measures to help prevent and control the COVID-19 epidemic after the lockdown removal.

Ho Chi Minh City has so far reported 54 cases of COVID-19, of whom 53 have recovered.

The British pilot who went to the Buddha bar is currently the only patient who remains hospitalized in the southern metropolis.

Nationwide, Vietnam has confirmed 268 cases, with 225 patients having made a full recovery as of Friday morning.

There has been no death related to the disease in the country.

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