Vietnam brings in new coronavirus curbs in business hub

HANOI (Reuters) -Vietnam brought in tighter coronavirus curbs on Friday in more areas including the commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, as authorities set a target to vaccinate 50% of people aged 18 or older by the end of the year and 70% by the end of March.

FILE PHOTO: A family wears protective masks as they ride a motorbike in the street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Thanh Hue

After successfully containing the virus for much of the pandemic, Vietnam has since late April faced a more stubborn outbreak that has prompted calls for the government to accelerate its vaccination programme.

With Vietnam’s daily infection rates hitting record highs above 1,000 four times this month, the government has extended curbs after placing restrictions on the capital Hanoi on Tuesday.

This week, panic buying broke out in Ho Chi Minh City and the neighbouring province of Dong Nai as people stocked up ahead of the curbs, with television footage showing police stopping vehicles at checkpoints and empty streets.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 is a necessary and important measure to contain the disease and ensure socio-economic development,” the health ministry said in a statement.

The government’s latest targets come after it had previously said it aimed to vaccinate 70% to 75% of the country’s 98 million population by the end of this year or early next year.

The ministry said on Friday it has clinched deals and commitments for 105 million vaccine doses, which is lower than the 150 million figure it had stated previously.

Online newspaper VnExpress reported the ministry had licensed a local company, Saigon Pharmaceutical Co., to import 5 million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine, making it the second company allowed to purchase coronavirus vaccines.

Vietnam has so far received around 6 million vaccine doses, mostly under the COVAX sharing facility. Nearly 4 million have been administered and only around 250,000 people have been fully vaccinated with two shots.

The country has recorded 25,419 infections overall and 104 deaths, according to the health ministry.

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