As Vietnam’s Ministry of Health Tuesday announced that the country now has its 10th case of novel coronavirus (nCoV), the government is making preparations to quarantine massive numbers of citizens returning home from China.
The 10th coronavirus patient is Vinh Phuc, 28, who contracted nCoV from a relative who had traveled to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the now global outbreak.
Vinh’s case is the third human-to-human transmission of nCoV in Vietnam. The other two cases involved a Chinese man transmitting the virus to his son and a receptionist at a hotel in Nha Trang.
But cases could rise dramatically in the coming weeks. The military has been asked to quarantine 950 Vietnamese who are scheduled to return to Vietnam from China soon.
The 950 will stay isolated for a period of 14 days at a military camp located in the outskirts of Hanoi, after their arrivals at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport and Quang Ninh’s Van Don airport.
Also Tuesday, 145 Vietnamese were placed under quarantine at a Sino-Vietnamese border gate in Lang Son province. The 145 are workers in China that were sent back home by the Chinese government.
In preparation for what the government expects will be thousands of Vietnamese returning from China, authorities are hastily making field hospitals to accommodate large-scale quarantines.
In Hanoi Wednesday, the director of Vietnam’s health department Nguyen Khac Hien said during a press conference that there is a proposal to convert Thanh Do University, located in the suburbs of the city, into one such field hospital.
If the epidemic spreads, Hanoi has the option of building another field hospital with a capacity of about 1,000 beds in Hanoi’s Me Linh district.
Currently two military facilities in the city have already been turned into quarantine centers able to treat about 1,500 people.
Meanwhile in Ho Chi Minh City, authorities are planning two field hospitals in Cu Chi and Nha Be districts, with a collective capacity of 500 beds. They are expected to be completed before Feb. 15.
Health leaders Wednesday said the country was preparing for a worst-case scenario.
State media, meanwhile, reported that two Chinese tourists who had traveled to Nha Trang between Jan. 23 and 28 had tested positive for nCoV.
Chinese health authorities said Xu Jianjiang and Dai Chunxia were confirmed cases upon their return to China. They had entered Vietnam on a Vietnam Airlines flight Jan. 23.
Battle against “fake news”
Vietnam’s Information and Communications Minister Nguyen Manh Hung asked the agency to work with Facebook and Google to remove fake news about coronavirus.
Minister Nguyen said fake news about the virus could create anxiety for the public. He asked the agency to tighten control and to punish those who post fake video clips and information about nCoV.
The minister mandated that Vietnam IT firms use artificial intelligence (AI) to discover fake news and to helping the health ministry by ensuring its website would not be overloaded by the spike in demand for coronavirus information.
Vietnam’s police ministry said at a press conference Wednesday that it summoned more than 170 people accused of spreading fake news.
The ministry said about 40 others are being monitored and could be subject to criminal charges.
RFA reported last week that at least six Facebookers were reprimanded for posting what the authorities allege is “fake news” about the virus, fining them between 10 million and 15 million dong (U.S. $433-$650).
State media reported Wednesday that there were at least nine fined exactly 12 million dong ($516) last week, and they were also forced to remove their posts about coronavirus.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong.