VIETNAM will extend its strict lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City until August 1. This was done because the country has not succeeded in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having managed to contain the virus for much of the pandemic, Vietnam has faced a complicated spread of the coronavirus outbreak, with business hubs south of Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces accounting for most of the new infections.

“Due to the fast-transmitting and unpredictable nature of the Delta variant and in order to protect people and minimize deaths, the city authorities have decided to tighten a number of measures to control the outbreak,” Vietnam’s Ministry of Health said in a statement Friday (7/23).

The number of services allowed to operate during the lockdown will be reduced, the health ministry said, citing Duong Anh Duc, Deputy Chief of Ho Chi Minh City.

Measures currently implemented in the city have been in effect since July 9, including stay-at-home orders, a ban on gatherings of more than two people and the suspension of public transport services.

Banking and securities services in the city will be reduced to a minimal level, while unnecessary construction projects will be suspended, the ministry said in a statement. The week-long spraying of disinfectants in high-risk areas for COVID-19 has also begun, the Health Ministry added.

Since late April, when the current outbreak began, Vietnam has imposed restrictions on movement in about a third of its 63 cities and provinces, including the capital Hanoi.

The Ministry of Health reported a record 7,307 cases on Friday (7/23), raising Vietnam’s overall caseload to 81,678, with 370 deaths. Ho Chi Minh City accounts for about 60% of the total cases. City authorities have asked Vietnam’s prime minister to add personnel to help fight the current outbreak.

Vietnam, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, is trying to speed up its inoculation program. The country received 1.2 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Friday, the largest shipment of its procurement so far. About 4.4 million doses have been administered in the country. But official data show that fewer than 335,000 people have been fully vaccinated. [antaranews/photo special]