Coronavirus: Vietnam evacuating 80,000 from city after 11 positive COVID-19 tests

Vietnam Airlines ground staff were seen wearing protective face masks at Danang airport last week

Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, from the central city of Da Nang after 11 residents tested positive for coronavirus.

The Southeast Asian country is back on high alert after confirming its first community infections since April over the weekend.

The evacuation will take at least four days with domestic airlines operating approximately 100 flights daily from Da Nang to 11 Vietnamese cities, the government said in a statement.

The 11 new COVID-19 cases are all linked to a hospital and include four healthcare workers, the country's health ministry said on Monday.

The country has imposed strict quarantine measures and carried out an aggressive and widespread testing programme during the pandemic.

The health ministry said it has registered a total of 431 cases, with no deaths, and claims it has carried out more than 430,000 tests with nearly 12,000 people under quarantine.

Vietnam is still closed to foreign tourism, but there had been a surge in domestic travellers looking to take advantage of discounted flights and holiday packages to local hotels and resorts.

Those returning from Da Nang to other parts of the country will be required to quarantine at home for 14 days, the health ministry said.

The evacuation of the city is part of the country's ongoing efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Vietnam had gone 99 days in a row without community transmission before a 57-year old man was confirmed to have the virus on Saturday, according to state media.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc demanded drastic contact-tracing and large-scale testing in Da Nang, one of the major tourist destinations in Vietnam, on Saturday.

He also ordered prompt investigation and strict punishment of illegal entrants into the country, especially in Da Nang and Quang Nam Province.

On Sunday, state media said police in Da Nang had arrested a 42-year-old Chinese man it said was the head of a criminal group which helps people illegally enter Vietnam from China.

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Authorities have not officially linked the new cases in Da Nang to illegal immigration.

The Da Nang Municipal People's Committee put one-metre social distancing rules in place on Saturday which were applicable from 1pm the same day.