After successfully curbing COVID-19 for months and receiving praise worldwide for its successful national response, Vietnam recorded its first COVID-19 death on Friday. The Southeast Asian country had not reported a single infection for 100 days, until an unexpected cluster of cases exploded in the resort city of Danang last week.
On Friday, the health ministry reported 45 new cases in the coastal city, making it the country's largest single-day spike. Hanoi, on Thursday, commenced mass testing and ordered the closure of nightclubs and bars. In addition to this, large gatherings have also been banned thousands of domestic travelers have bee urged to report to authorities.
Mass Testing In Capital
By noon on Friday, 21,732 people had been tested in the capital, the Hanoi Centre for Disease Control said. Around 21,000 tested negative, it said in a statement, without elaborating. Patient 428, a 70-year-old man who appears to have contracted the disease in Danang, died on Friday, the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA) said.
The 45 most recent patients, aged between 27 and 87, were linked to three hospitals and two clinics in Danang, according to the health ministry, which overnight sent a task force of health experts, along with more than 1,000 health workers, to the city. The task force includes 65 health experts who had previously helped fight coronavirus at other epicenters in Vietnam, the ministry said.
Authorities in Danang are building a 1,000-bed field hospital to ease the burden on the city's hospitals, four of which are under lockdown following a series of cases there. The newly confirmed infections in Danang have lifted the total number of cases in Vietnam to 509. Some experts say Vietnam could be paying for complacency after its initial success stopping the virus, with normal service quickly resuming, face masks used less and domestic travel surging.
Global Praise for Pandemic Response
Danang had been inundated with visitors taking advantage of promotions to revitalize a tourism sector hurt by border closures and international flight bans. The current wave is traced to Danang, but the source is unclear.
In addition to what public health experts said was a "textbook" pandemic response, Communist-ruled Vietnam had earned global praise for its openness and transparency. But articles reporting the death of Patient 428 published on the websites of several state media outlets on Friday afternoon were initially deleted or moved further down the front page.
Some outlets published new articles shortly afterward which said the man had died from a heart attack and underlying illnesses, as well as COVID-19. The health ministry has since confirmed the death.
(With inputs from agencies)