129 Vietnamese virus patients arrive back home from Africa

HAU DINH

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A plane carrying 129 Vietnamese nationals diagnosed with COVID-19 arrived in their homeland from Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday, with the patients immediately transferred to a hospital for treatment, the government said.

The patients, who were accompanied by a team of four doctors and nurses, were in stable condition after the 12-hour journey from Bata, the capital of the Central African country.

On a video aired by national broadcaster VTV, the patients, all in blue protective gear, are seen chanting “Thank you Vietnam for bringing us home” while the flight crew waves Vietnamese flags as they walk down from the plane to the tarmac at Hanoi's airport.

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The patients, who were serving as construction workers in Equatorial Guinea, were taken to a hospital for treatment, along with 100 other passengers and the flight crew, who will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Prior to the patients' arrival, the hospital had cleared out its facility of 500 beds to treat the new cases, VTV said.

“We have moved all non-COVID-19 patients being treated at the hospital to other branches to avoid the risk of cross infections,” said the hospital director, Dr. Pham Ngoc Thach.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s government said Wednesday that it was stepping up measures against the coronavirus as the country’s first domestic outbreak in more than three months continues to spread.

Starting from a hospital in the popular beach city of Da Nang, 34 cases have been confirmed over the past five days, including 12 on Wednesday, according to the Health ministry.

The ministry said that among the new cases, one is in Hanoi while the other one is in the city of Daklak, located in the central highland coffee region.

“The outbreak this time has a high risk of spreading to other big cities and provinces around Da Nang,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at the government’s daily COVID-19 meeting.

In Hanoi, the capital, health officials disinfected the residence and workplace of an infected man who recently returned from Da Nang after a family vacation. The alley leading to his house and the pizza restaurant where he works were cordoned off and his contacts were quarantined and tested for the virus.

The government estimates that tens of thousands of domestic tourists cut short their vacations and left Da Nang after the report of the outbreak there.