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Vietnam to test high-risk groups in largest city


FILE - A woman wearing a face mask looks at her phone in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 23, 2021. Vietnam says it has discovered a new coronavirus variant that’s a hybrid of strains first found in India and the U.K. (Reuters)

Vietnam plans to test high-risk groups in its largest city for the coronavirus and imposed more restrictions Monday to deal with a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

People in Ho Chi Minh City are only allowed to leave home for necessary activities and public gatherings of more than 10 people are banned for the next two weeks, the government announced. Prior to the order, the city, also Vietnam’s economic hub, shut down non-essential business last Thursday when cases started to increase.

Vietnam News Agency said the city authority is planning to test high-risk groups in the population of 9 million with a testing capacity of 100,000 samples a day.

The newspaper also said police had filed a case Sunday against the couple who head a Protestant church mission for “spreading dangerous infectious diseases,” citing poor health protocols applied at the premises.

At least 145 cases of coronavirus infection have been reported with links to the Revival Ekklesia Mission, a Protestant sect, and the city district of Go Vap, where the church is based, has been locked down. Vietnam has since banned all religious events nationwide.

The newspaper said church followers gathered in small space for singing and chanting without proper distancing and mask wearing. Ho Chi Minh city police said the mission has 48 registered members.

The report said the husband and wife accused in the case were responsible for leading and organizing activities at the church. They were not identified and are not under arrest.

Since the end of April, a surge in COVID-19 has spread to 31 municipalities and provinces in Vietnam with over 4,000 cases, almost double the total number that the country reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

Some recent patients in Vietnam were infected with a hybrid of the virus variants first found in India and the U.K., the health minister said Saturday. Nguyen Thanh Long said the hybrid might spread more easily and could be responsible for Vietnam’s recent surge.

Viruses often develop small genetic changes as they reproduce, and new variants of the coronavirus have been seen almost since it was first detected in China in late 2019. The World Health Organization categorized the U.K. and the Indian variants, along with two others first found in South Africa and Brazil, as “variants of concern” because they appear to be more contagious.

Vietnam has vaccinated 1 million people with AstraZeneca shots. It has a deal with Pfizer for 30 million doses to be delivered later this year. It is also in talks with Moderna that would give it enough shots to fully vaccinate 80% of its 96 million people.

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