HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A plane carrying 129 Vietnamese citizens 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, accompanied by four doctors and nurses, were in stable condition after the 12-hour journey from Bata, the Central African country’s capital.
For more than three months until recently, all confirmed coronavirus cases in Vietnam have come from overseas, like the Vietnamese repatriated from Africa. But the virus has recently resumed spreading within Vietnam, starting from a hospital in the popular beach city of Da Nang.
Thirty-four cases linked to the hospital have been confirmed over the past five days, including 12 on Wednesday, according to the Health Ministry.
The cases confirmed on Wednesday include an American who had been a patient last week at the Da Nang hospital and his companion, who had then moved to another hospital in Ho Chi Minh City in the south. The ministry said there was also one case each in Hanoi, the capital, and Daklak in the central highland coffee region.
The government said it is stepping up measures against the coronavirus as the domestic outbreak widens.
“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, health officials disinfected the residence and workplace of the infected man, who had 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 start of the outbreak there.
The patients repatriated on Wednesday from Equatorial Guinea, all in blue protective gear, chanted “Thank you Vietnam for bringing us home” while the flight crew waved Vietnamese flags as they walked down from the plane to the tarmac at Hanoi's airport.
The patients, who were construction workers, were taken to a hospital along with 100 other passengers and the flight crew, who will be quarantined for 14 days.
Prior to the patients' arrival, the hospital cleared out its 500 beds to treat the new cases, state broadcaster 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's director, Dr. Pham Ngoc Thach.