Tourists quarantined in Vietnam as virus spreads

Motorists, wearing facemasks amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, ride past the Formula One Vietnam Grand Prix race track site in Hanoi. (AFP Photo)

A group of 25 Dutch tourists are among dozens of foreigners quarantined in communist Vietnam as the Southeast Asian nation tightens measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Hanoi says a total of 39 people, the majority nationals and British visitors, have tested positive to the virus which has spread panic across a country of 96 million people. There have been no deaths reported so far.

On Thursday, authorities confirmed 25 Dutch were among dozens of travellers quarantined in an education facility in the tourist town of Hoi An after taking a domestic flight with a COVID-19 patient.

"The condition there is not as good as in the hotels, but we will try to provide them with some essential things especially suitable food upon request," said Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh, director of Hoi An city's prevention healthcare centre.

"Several felt uncomfortable at the beginning, but later they complied with the situation," Anh told reporters.

State-run Voice of Vietnam radio earlier reported a total of 38 foreigners in quarantine in Hoi An, including people from Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland and Finland.

The country's ministry of health has said nearly 25,000 people have been put under quarantine at government controlled centers or at home, since the country raised its alert on the deadly virus early February.

No complete figure is available on the number of foreigners currently under quarantine in Vietnam, although state media has reported dozens were put under quarantine in state-managed facilities or hotels across the country.

Vietnam has granted limited access to visitors from China and South Korea - another major coronavirus hotspot - since the outbreak began at the start of 2020, imposing a 14-day quarantine at government-controlled centres.

Last weekend, a cluster of infections was discovered among 201 passengers on a Vietnam Airlines flight from London to Hanoi. 

Authorities are chasing down anyone linked to the infected patients, who include a rich Vietnamese woman, a state official and several British tourists. 

Several major tourism spots in the country - such as Halong bay and islands - have been closed to visitors.

It is not yet clear if Vietnam's first-ever Formula One Grand Prix, a street race to be held in Hanoi, will proceed in on the first weekend in April. - AFP