March 27, 2020 / 6:46 AM / 7 days ago

Vietnam bans big gatherings, cuts flights in coronavirus battle

FILE PHOTO: A woman wears a protective mask as she rides past an empty street during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hanoi, Vietnam March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam will limit domestic flights and stop public gatherings for two weeks from Saturday in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the government said in a statement on Friday.

Indoor gatherings of more than 20 people and outdoor gatherings of 10 people or more will be banned, the government said, citing an order signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Vietnam has found 153 coronavirus cases but has had no reported deaths, according to the health ministry. More than 57,000 people are in quarantine.

The next 10-15 days would be decisive in Vietnam’s fight against the virus, Phuc has said.

In the statement on Friday, Phuc also ordered that flights between the capital, Hanoi, and the southern business hub of Ho Chi Minh City and cities across the country be reduced.

All major cities should temporarily shut down non-essential services until April 15 at the earliest and residents should stay indoors as much as possible, Phuc said.

Even though Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s poorer countries, its efforts against the virus, praised at home, have ensured its tally of infections is lower than those in many of its neighbours.

In recent weeks, Vietnam has been battling an influx of imported coronavirus cases brought in by Vietnamese citizens escaping outbreaks elsewhere and by foreign visitors.

Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by James Pearson, Robert Birsel

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