Vietnam suspends flights, tightens Hanoi curbs to contain Covid cases

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) carries swab samples to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus at the Thanh Xuan district medical centre in Hanoi

Vietnam on Monday suspended more inbound flights, tightened curbs in its biggest city and urged private procurements of coronavirus vaccines, as it races to secure supplies and tackle an outbreak that has seen its cases double in the past month.

Vietnam has yet to start mass inoculations but its government said on Monday it must remove obstacles to vaccine access, including by allowing local authorities and companies to procure vaccines themselves, via the health ministry or 27 authorised importers.

Vietnam has reached out to foreign countries for help with vaccine procurement, including the US.

“There must be measures to secure the vaccines at the earliest,” deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam told a cabinet meeting. “All hurdles must be lifted, and all related issues must be addressed.”

After successfully containing outbreaks for most of last year, Vietnam has seen infections rise sharply and has detected several highly transmissible variants, plus a new one announced on Saturday that had elements of the variants first identified in Britain and India.

Health minister Nguyen Thanh Long said the target of securing 150 million doses of vaccines this year was “feasible”. Vietnam has authorised those of AstraZeneca and Russian vaccine Sputnik V. Long on Saturday said Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech had applied.

The government on Monday said international flights into Hanoi would be halted until June 7, following a similar move by the business hub Ho Chi Minh City, which on Monday started 15 days of measures that include bans on dine-in restaurants and public gatherings of more than 10 people, plus closures of casinos and beauty salons.

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