HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam on Friday reported its first-ever death of a person with the coronavirus as it struggles with a renewed outbreak after 99 days with no local cases.
The Health Ministry said a 70-year-old man died after contracting the disease while being treated for a kidney illness at a hospital in Da Nang. More than 100 new cases have been confirmed in the past week, more than half of them patients at the hospital.
Da Nang is Vietnam’s most popular beach destination, and thousands of visitors were in the city for summer vacation. Across the country, authorities are rushing to test people who have returned home from the coastal city.
Dr. Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the country’s Administration of Medical Examination and Treatment, said there are at least six other elderly patients with COVID-19 currently in critical condition. All have other underlying illnesses, he said.
Vietnam had been seen as a global success story in combating the coronavirus with zero deaths and no confirmed cases of local transmission for 99 days. But a week ago an outbreak began at Da Nang Hospital. It has grown to 104 confirmed cases in six parts of the country, including three of the largest cities, forcing authorities to reimpose virus restrictions.
Experts worry the actual number of cases could be far higher. Before the latest outbreak it had a total of only 416 cases.
In Hanoi, where two people have tested positive after returning from Da Nang, over 100 clinics have been set up with test kits to detect the virus. Hanoi is expected to test about 21,000 people who declared that they had recently returned from Da Nang.
“I want to be tested so I can stop worrying if I have the virus or not. It is for me and for the community,” said Pham Thuy Hoa, a banking official who recently went to Da Nang for a family vacation. “Since coming back, my family and I have quarantined ourselves at home. I did not go to work or see others. We must be responsible for the entire community.”
Ho Chi Minh City plans to test 18,000 Da Nang returnees.
Da Nang was put under lockdown on Tuesday and testing and business restrictions increased in other areas. The city on Friday began setting up a makeshift hospital in a sports auditorium and doctors have been mobilized from other cities to help.
Hoi An, an ancient town and top tourist destination known for its charming old houses 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Da Nang, stopped allowing visitors on Thursday because of the outbreak. Its pedestrian streets, adorned with lanterns, were empty and nonessential services and gatherings were banned.