Ho Chi Minh City entered a strict lockdown on Monday, with troops carrying AK-47 rifles stationed around Vietnam’s biggest city to restrict people’s movements and residents complaining online about intimidation, sources say.
Thousands of official troops and as many as 35,000 army reservists are now being deployed to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the city, formerly called Saigon, Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense said last week.
City residents have expressed concern over the move, though, with some comparing the sight of armed soldiers on the streets to the April 30, 1975, capture of the city by North Vietnamese troops that ended the Vietnam War.
“It’s frightening to see them carrying AK-47 rifles because now it looks like they’re intimidating people instead of just protecting them,” one resident told RFA on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The virus isn’t scared of AK-47s, so this creates an image more of violent repression than of protection,” he said.
“Are they there to shoot the pandemic or the people?” asked a netizen named Tran Quyen, writing in a comment posted to RFA’s Vietnamese Service Facebook page, one of at least 640 comments posted by contributors on Monday, with another source saying the scene reminded him of curfews imposed in wartime.
Others wrote that government authorities alarmed by recent protests in Cuba may have posted troops across the city to prevent unrest caused by the harsh conditions imposed on those living under lockdown.
Also on Monday, Deputy Minister Vu Duc Dam—head of the government’s COVID-19 task force—ordered that all homeless people in Vietnam be rounded up and held in facilities managed by the military.
Vietnam has now recorded 354,355 cases of COVID-19 dating from April 27, the first day of the fourth wave of coronavirus outbreak in the country, to Aug. 23. A total of 8,666 deaths due to COVID-19 have now been reported in Vietnam.
Thousands each day
Vietnam’s southern province of Binh Duong is now overwhelmed with COVID patients, with the number of new cases soaring to thousands of people a day and officials calling for an additional 6,000 health workers to handle the continued climb in infections.
More than 70,000 cases and 570 deaths have been recorded to date in Binh Duong, provincial health department director Nguyen Hong Chuong reported on Monday.
With quarantine centers in the province filled beyond capacity, local authorities are instructing patients not yet showing symptoms, designated FO, to quarantine at home, with more serious cases designated F1 and F2.
Unrest broke out in a provincial quarantine center at Tan Uyen village last week because of poor living conditions amid rumors that a pregnant woman in failing health had died at the center after her transfer to a hospital was delayed, according to Facebook videos posted on Saturday and Monday,
Some center residents were then transferred to another facility with better conditions, and village health department director Nguyen Van Dang was suspended from his job on Aug. 22, sources said.
“I don’t dare say anything now, because I’m scared,” one resident at the Tan Uyen center told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
Cases in Laos, Cambodia
Vietnam’s neighbors Laos and Cambodia also saw climbing numbers of infections this week, with Laos reporting 152 new cases in the 24-hour-period ending Aug. 23 in addition to 411 new infections reported on Saturday and 305 reported on Sunday.
At least 95 prison inmates in the southern province of Savannakhet were reported infected, many of them by infected guards, in the period from Aug. 17 to Aug. 19, while in Champassak province, also in the country’s south, authorities canceled a lockdown but kept other restrictions in place including a ban on large gatherings.
Out of 377,692 persons examined for signs of infection since the pandemic began, 12,621 have now been found to be infected, 11 have died, 8,305 have recovered, and 4,305 are still receiving treatment in hospitals, Lao sources said.
In Cambodia, at least1,808 have now died from COVID-19 after 16 new deaths were reported on Monday, with a total of 89,641 infections also reported after 400 new cases were added to the list, according to Cambodian Health Ministry sources.
At least 132 of the new cases of infection were imported from abroad, the Ministry said, adding that at least 85,618 previously infected Cambodians have now recovered.
On Sunday, the Ministry announced it can now vaccinate nearly 9,000, or 90 percent, of the 10,000 people still eligible for vaccinations. Nearly 2 million people have already been injected, mostly with Chinese vaccines.
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