Vietnam extends quarantine for arrivals after new virus outbreak

a group of people riding on the back of a motorcycle: Morning commuters wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus in Hanoi © Manan VATSYAYANA Morning commuters wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus in Hanoi

Vietnam has extended the quarantine period for anyone arriving in the country to three weeks, authorities said Wednesday, following a fresh community outbreak of the coronavirus.

The nation has so far kept case numbers low -- recording just over 3,000 cases and 35 deaths -- thanks to strict quarantine measures and extensive contact tracing.

But Vietnam reported its first community outbreak in weeks last Thursday, and other clusters have since emerged.

Several cases have been linked to people who tested positive after their two-week stay in hotel quarantine had ended.

"The Ministry of Health has decided to extend the period of mandatory quarantine for people who have made close contact with Covid-19 patients and people who have entered Vietnam," said health minister Nguyen Thanh Long.

The new quarantine period will be 21 days.

The announcement came after one of the country's best hospitals -- which has treated many Covid-19 patients -- went into lockdown Wednesday, after a doctor tested positive for the virus.

Fourteen others at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi were later found to be infected.

About 800 medical workers, patients as well as any relatives who were visiting at the time the lockdown was announced must remain in the hospital for two weeks, authorities said.

Vietnam has also detected cases in the community of a Covid-19 variant believed to be behind a devastating surge in infections in India.

The last community outbreak, centred on the northern city of Hai Duong, was successfully contained last month.

But the country has been on high alert amid a spiralling outbreak in other parts of Southeast Asia including Cambodia and Laos, which both share a border with Vietnam.

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Vietnam extends quarantine for arrivals after new virus outbreak