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Vietnam counts Q1 tourism damage inflicted by Covid-19


The country welcomed nearly 3.7 million international tourists in the period, down 18.1 percent year-on-year, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

Around 2.6 million Asians, who account for nearly 80 percent of total foreign arrivals, visited the country, down 21.1 percent.

The number of Chinese tourists, the biggest feeder market for Vietnamese tourism, was 871,000, down 32 percent from a year ago. Starting February 1, Vietnam suspended all flights to and from China where the Covid-19 pandemic originated.

Around 819,000 South Koreans, the second biggest feeder market, visited Vietnam, down 26 percent. From late February, the Vietnamese government canceled many flights from Vietnam to South Korea and suspended visa-free travel for South Koreans, one of the countries hit hardest by Covid-19 at that time.

The number of Q1 European visitors to Vietnam was 664,000, down 3.1 percent from a year ago.

In March alone, the number of foreign tourists to Vietnam was 449,000, down 63.8 percent from the previous month and 68.1 percent from a year ago.

All popular tourist destinations in the country have been closed since mid-March while bars and most other entertainment facilities around the country were shut down from Saturday until April 15 on the Prime Minister’s orders, with the country entering a critical stage in its Covid-19 fight. 

All restaurants and coffee shops in Hanoi are closed until April 15 to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy. 

All restaurants and coffee shops in Hanoi are closed until April 15 to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy. 

Small and big hotels have shut down, and more than 100 have offered to become paid quarantine zones.

Europe is at now an epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting the government to suspend entry for all foreign nationals starting March 22, including those of Vietnamese origin and family members with visa waivers, and stop all international flights from March 25 in an unprecedented move in the country.

Only Vietnamese nationals and foreigners having diplomatic and official passports such as business managers, experts and high-skilled workers will be allowed to enter the country at this time, and all entrants will be quarantined for 14 days.

Vietnam has so far recorded 174 Covid-19 infections and discharged 21 after treatment so far. Many of active cases are Vietnamese nationals retuning from Europe and the U.S. and foreigners coming from the same regions.

The coronavirus pandemic has struck at a time Vietnam was enjoying a tourism boom, with visitor numbers last year growing 16.2 percent year-on-year to a record high of 18 million. The United Nations World Tourism Organization had placed Vietnam seventh among world’s 10 fastest-growing tourist destinations.

Vietnam had targeted welcoming 20.5 million international visitors and 90 million domestic travelers this year, generating VND830 trillion ($35.6 billion) in tourism revenues, according to the national tourism administration.



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Bumper shrimp sauce of life in Thua Thien-Hue


On the other hand, some fisherfolk in Hai Duong Commune of Huong Tra Township opt instead for a manual fishing method, using a smaller-scale snare trap.

Ho Van Cu, a 70-year-old fisherman from Hai Duong Commune, catches shrimp using a 20-meter-long net contraption with a five-meter-long built-in receptacle. The fisherman trudges the water himself to bag the shrimp. After two hours of laboring, Cu and his neighbor collectively reap over a hundred kilograms of fresh bumper shrimp.



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Vietnamese coronavirus survivor recalls novel ordeal


Pursuing his education at Kyungpook National University in South Korea’s Daegu City, the 27-year-old man had struggled to remain at ease since February, when the city became an epidemic epicenter.

He only ventured out to supermarkets to buy food and never left his mask at home. The rest of the time, he stayed home with his sister.

“When my throat got sore, I did not think it was Covid-19, assuming I had contracted the common flu,” he recalled after being discharged from hospital on March 20.

Tung could not believe he was carrying the coronavirus since he rarely had contact with people while staying in Daegu, turning to lozenges to help ease the discomfort.

Tung (R) was discharged from Ninh Binh General Hospital on March 20, 2020. Photo courtesy of Ninh Binh General Hospital.

Tung (R) was discharged from Ninh Binh General Hospital on March 20, 2020. Photo courtesy of Ninh Binh General Hospital.

In the next few days, things got worse.

Though Tung learned more about how Covid-19 had killed thousands in China, he still could not understand how he got infected.

After many phone calls from his parents in Vietnam, he decided to return home without telling them about the symptoms he was experiencing.

“Streets in Daegu were quiet,” he recalled, adding many locals did not wear masks even though the virus was engulfing the city.

Since the outbreak commenced, he has given up on his part-time job at a South Korean BBQ restaurant.

When his plane touched down at Van Don International Airport in northern Quang Ninh Province earlier this month, Tung was placed under quarantine at a military school in northern Ninh Binh Province after having his samples taken and tested.

“I was woken the next evening and taken to a room to supply epidemiological data,” he remembered.

An ambulance took him to the infection department of Ninh Binh General Hospital while the ten other people in his room, including his sister, were moved to another quarantine zone.

A confused Tung subsequently became the nation’s 18th Covid-19 patient.

In South Korea, he had only come in contact with two friends, both testing negative back in Vietnam.

“I am young and healthy and believe I will beat the disease,” he maintained, adding he totally trusted in doctors at the hospital.

On his first day, medical staff applied infusion therapy. After 2-3 days, his throat finally grew better.

“I did not know whether I had transmitted the virus to someone else,” Tung told himself. Luckily, his sister and others who previously shared his room all tested negative.

In the 10 days at hospital, he spent time talking with his parents and friends and checking for news on Daegu. His phone became a tool connecting its owner with the outside world.

“It was lucky I only had a sore throat and no fever, so I was not too tired.”

His first negative results came out one week after he was hospitalized. “I felt at ease and happy because I knew I would be discharged soon.”

Tung eventually left Ninh Binh General Hospital on March 20 after three negative tests. He was taken to Thai Binh General Hospital in his hometown where he would be quarantined for several days.

“I just want to be reunited with my parents,” he said.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Vietnam has gone up to 163. Of the total, 20 have recovered and been discharged, including Tung.



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Viral food: Hanoi restaurant serves coronavirus-shaped burgers


By Anh Minh  &nbspMarch 27, 2020 | 03:58 pm GMT+7
Viral food: Hanoi restaurant serves coronavirus-shaped burgers

Each ‘Coronaburger’ costs VND85,000 ($3.6). Photo courtesy of Pizza Home.

A takeaway eatery in downtown Hanoi has created burgers that mimic the microscopic images of the novel coronavirus.

Hoang Tung, owner of the Pizza Home takeaway shop, said he was following an “eat to overcome fear” philosophy to revive the spirit of the people during the Covid-19 crisis.

“There is a joke that if you are scared of something, you should eat it. So I hope that people will no longer fear the virus after eating the coronavirus-shaped burger. I hope it can help lighten up people during this pandemic period,” he said.

Tung calls his creation the Coronaburger, which has spiky green buns which get their color from katuk (rau ngot) leaves and matcha powder. Tung said he and fellow chefs came up with the recipe after days of experimenting different ingredients.

He sells around 50 Coronaburgers a day at VND85,000 ($3.6) each.

Tung said the orders are a positive sign for his restaurant (191 Ba Trieu Street) at a time of crisis for the food service industry. The crisis has lasted since the Lunar New Year holiday until now.

This is not the first time Tung has come up with a creative twist for his menu. He had turned heads with a red dragon fruit pizza last month. He said that innovation was aimed at helping dragon fruit farmers impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

Pizza with dough made with dragon fruit. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue.

A dragon fruit pizza made to support farmers struggling to sell their fruit amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue.



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Hanoians taken by surprise as eateries ordered shut


In Co Nhue 1 Ward in Bac Tu Liem District on Thursday morning a waiter rushes to a car parking in front of his coffee shop and waves it away saying the shop is closed. A man in the car, not knowing about the closure order, looks around the deserted street and sees all the shops are closed.

The waiter said the orders to shut all “non-essential” businesses had surprised many customers, and he had to send more than 20 people away since morning that day.

Two days earlier Hanoi had ordered the closure of all business establishments except those selling food, medicine and fuel from March 26 to April 5.

Karaoke parlors, bars, night clubs, and cinemas have all closed. The city is operating 20 percent of its buses but discourages people from using public transportation.

Nguyen Van Thang, owner of that coffee shop in Co Nhue 1 Ward, said he had received a phone call from the local police telling him to close.

“I was surprised, but since we are in a pandemic we have to do it.” In the event, he spent Thursday morning cleaning the coffee shop along with his 12 workers.

He has put up a board outside announcing the closure.

Thang closes the gate and puts a board on March 26, 2020, saying his coffee shop would be closed until April 5. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Thang closes the gate and puts a board on March 26, 2020, saying his coffee shop would be closed until April 5. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

He told his staff: “Go to your hometown if you want to or close your doors and stay inside. Do not wander outside, there is a pandemic.”

On Nghia Tan Street, which is popular for its many street food and snack places, the only one open at lunchtime on Thursday was a tofu seller. All others selling foods like noodles, grilled pork and bread had vanished.

The fiftyish woman said she did not know about the authority’s order and would close her business after selling the last bowls of bean curd for some boys walking by.

Thirty meters away, Khuyen and her husband were donning masks and sitting in front of their noodles restaurant.

“Do you sell noodles today?”, after 15 minutes, a customer came and asked.

“Only for takeaways,” Khuyen responded.

She had no idea about the order of the authority until local police came and told her while she was opening the restaurant in the morning, leaving her no time to prepare.

Khuyen (L) and her husband try to sell as they had prepared the food in the morning of March 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Khuyen (L) and her husband try to sell as they had prepared the food in the morning of March 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Not putting plastic table and stools on the pavement as usual, she tried to wait for takeaway order before taking the leftovers home.

“I bring home and share the food with my relatives,” said Khuyen, who has witnessed a significant decrease in the number of eaters since the coronavirus outbreak hit Vietnam. She has not decided when to re-open the noodles restaurant in the future.

Not too far from that, another vermicelli restaurant had a quick move by selling their food to online customers and encouraging people to opt for takeaways.

“Starting tomorrow, we will solely serve online orders,” said a server.

Since morning that day many shops in Nghia Tan Market had received notices informing them whether or not they were an “essential” business.

“We sell essential supplies, so we are allowed to open,” a butcher told a rice seller sitting next to her.

Not only businesses but also the public was surprised at the closure order by authorities.

Luu Tien Manh, 35, learned about it on March 25 but did not expect it would be that quick for local businesses to follow the order. The next morning he struggled to find breakfast since his usual banh mi place and many other restaurants were closed.

“I had to remain on the empty stomach until lunch,” the man who works for a state-owned firm on Quan Su Street said.

Some of his colleagues tried to find lunch at 10 a.m., but all the restaurants nearby were closed. They eventually resorted to online orders.

Manh said: “Normally we have lunch and drink some tea outside. Now even the tea stall has vanished.” He planned to bring his lunch from home the next day.

In the last two months the novel coronavirus had caused many changes to his daily life: The company’s football team had stopped playing, his colleagues gave up on the gym, which has also shut down due to the recent order from the local authority.

A restaurant closes for two months starting March 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

A restaurant closes for two months starting March 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Two kilometers away from Manh’s office, three young men were having lunch in a 30-meter-square apartment on Phan Huy Chu Street.

The tourism industry workers had become jobless and pooled VND20,000 ($0.85) each daily to cook two meals at home.

Nguyen Tien Duc, 24, said: “We now work as delivery men. I have a friend who is a baker, and we plan to buy his cakes and sell on the Internet.”

Hanoi has the highest number of Covid-19 infections in Vietnam. On March 26 the government banned crowds of more than 20 people, ordering localities to close “non-essential” businesses as the Covid-19 fight escalates.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Vietnam has gone up to 153. Of the total, 20 have recovered and been discharged.



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Celebrities adapt to pandemic life


Singer Don Nguyen (L) sells snacks via his Facebook page, including pork skin, chicken legs, kimchi, durian cakes, etc. The singer said he was not afraid of people making fun of him since all he has done is try to survive until the pandemic is over. Photo courtesy of Don Nguyen.



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Vietnamese couple in Wuhan rescued before due date


“Prepare your stuff, there is a possibility you can return,” the Vietnamese Embassy in China told Nguyen Van Phi on February 9.

“There is a hope to return,” he told his wife in a rental apartment opposite an entrance gate of Wuhan University in China’s Hubei Province.

The 36-week pregnant Nguyen Thi Thanh tried to stay calm before starting to pack.

“Should we bring the baby stroller? No. The crib is also too big,” Phi asked and answered himself in a rush. Meanwhile, Thanh packed clothes for their coming infant.

“We were so happy we hugged many times while packing,” they recalled.

As Thanh was about to give birth, an obstetrician joined the flight from Wuhan to Vietnam to take care of her. When the flight touched down at Van Don International Airport in northern Quang Ninh Province, she was taken via ambulance to National Hospital of Tropical Diseases for quarantine in a special room equipped with an incubator. Everything was ready to welcome their new baby.

However, the couple could never forget what happened 20 days prior in Wuhan, epicenter of the novel coronavirus.

Thanh (L) and Phi prepare to exit quarantine on March 2, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Loc Chung.

Thanh (L) and Phi prepare to exit quarantine on March 2, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Loc Chung.

When the outbreak started, the couple decided to stay in Wuhan instead of going home for the Lunar New Year break in late January because they wanted to focus on studying.

“We did not think it was the epicenter,” Phi, 27, said, adding there was limited information about the deadly virus at the time. 

The master student had bought a lot of food before the break, thinking it would take time for local markets to restock after the long holiday. He also planned to visit some locations in the city with his wife.

At 10 a.m. on January 23, they both received messages saying Wuhan was under lockdown, and public transportation halted.

The couple remained indoors, donned masks, and checked their body temperature each morning. Phi habitually served his pregnant wife cups of warm water to prevent her throat from getting dry, opening the windows to improve air ventilation, even at 4 degrees Celsius outside.

He only ventured out once every two days to dispose of garbage while donning two layers of masks, gloves, and glasses.

The couple grew worried Thanh would not be able to attend hospital as the delivery day drew near, with no idea whether their baby had enough nutrition or amniotic fluid.

“I was anxious since I did not know where our baby would be delivered and how. My wife and the baby would be weak while the epidemic grew complicated, which was dangerous,” said Phi, who listened for his baby’s heartbeats and kicks daily.

Many teachers who learned of their situation regularly checked on them, a professor even collecting masks on their behalf. Their parents in Vietnam also called several times a day.

Thanh and Phi felt better after connecting with the Vietnamese Embassy in China. Since, they could report their health status to a group of Vietnamese at noon every day. Phi received many updates from the embassy while studying at night.

“One time, the ambassador called at 1 a.m. and told me to stop worrying. He promised to take us home and reminded me to make my wife feel better by reading stories, doing yoga and listening to music,” Phi recalled.

Their son was born on March 5, 2020. Photo courtesy of Thanh.

Their son was born on March 5, 2020. Photo courtesy of Thanh.

That day finally came, the couple rescued after only three hours to prepare.

In the afternoon, waiting for the embassy’s bus to arrive, Thanh and Phi spotted no one in the quiet area around their university. With the metropolis deserted, Thanh could scarcely hold back her tears.

“Every night we listened to the words ‘Wuhan Jiayou’ (Wuhan hang in there) projected from many buildings nearby. We prayed for a miracle,” Thanh said.

One day after arriving at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, Thanh finally had a doctor check on her baby. One month without any medical checks, she was like a cat on hot bricks.

“When the doctor said both of them were fine, I felt my burden ease,” Phi declared. 

They spent 21 days in quarantine and did not give up on their studies. Apart from checking their temperature, Phi and Thanh also regularly checked for news on Wuhan.

March 2, when their quarantine ceased, they took the bus to a hospital in their hometown in central Nghe An Province.

Two days later, a baby boy was born. His name is Anh Vu. 

That day, spring started in Wuhan as the epidemic was contained.

Thanh and Phi cannot wait to continue their studies in China, now with a baby boy.



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Yellow blossoms set 400-year-old town aglow


A group of foreign tourists visited Hoi An on March 14. 
The town, where a British tourist was found infected with Covid-19, stopped welcoming arrivals to Bay Mau Coconut Forest, two miles from the town center, as well as Thanh Ha Pottery Village and Tra Que Village from last week until the end of this month. 



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2,000 Russians on Vietnam’s ‘pearl’ island to fly home


“Around 4,160 international tourists currently remain on the island, including the Russians,” the Tourism Department of Kien Giang Province, home to Phu Quoc, stated Wednesday.

Bui Quoc Thai, deputy director of the department, said the flights will be carried out from Wednesday to Saturday to bring the stranded Russian tourists home as all Vietnamese carriers suspended international routes starting Wednesday following Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s order in a move to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phu Quoc, a pupular tourist destination in southern Vietnam, temporarily suspended receiving tourists from last week and closed all bars and restaurants after a Latvian visitor tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

A notorious prison site during the French colonial era, Vietnam’s ‘pearl’ island has gained worldwide popularity in recent years. It opened an international airport in 2012 and has been implementing a 30-day visa-free policy to foreigners since 2014. The island has also seen a rapid growth of resorts and tourist services.

Phu Quoc welcomed over five million arrivals last year, up 30 percent from 2018. Of these, 541,600 were foreign.

Relaxing chairs on Phu Quoc Island are left empty, March 2020. Photo by Shutterstock/Andy. 

Relaxing chairs on Phu Quoc Island are left empty amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, March 2020. Photo by Shutterstock/Andy. 

Earlier on Sunday, Vietnam suspended entry for all foreign nationals, including those of Vietnamese origin and family members with visa waivers.

Only Vietnamese nationals and foreigners carrying diplomatic and official passports such as business managers, experts and high-skilled workers will be allowed to enter the country at this time, with all entrants quarantined for 14 days.

So far, the nation has confirmed 148 infections, including 131 active cases. Many of the active cases are Vietnamese nationals returning from Europe and the U.S. The earlier 17 cases were discharged after treatment. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has killed more than 19,700 people globally as it spread to 198 countries and territories.



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Hundreds ignore Covid-19 curfew, flock to Hanoi temple


The management board of Tay Ho Temple (Phu Tay Ho) in Tay Ho District, a popular place of worship for devout Buddhists as also foreign tourists, announced its closure 10 days ago over the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, hundreds flocked to the area outside the temple to prepare offerings for the Mother Goddess. The first day of the third lunar month, the death anniversary of Princess Lieu Hanh, venerated by the Vietnamese people as the Mother Goddess of Earth, is a particularly sacred day that attracts a large number of devotees, usually, but this was an unexpected crowd, given the Covid-19 related lockdown announced by Hanoi authorities.

People pray outside the temple on March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue. 

People pray outside the temple on March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue. 

Do Ngoc Long, vice chairman of Quang An Ward in Tay Ho District, said that after receiving information about the crowd at the temple, he used loud speakers to advise them to break up and avoid the risk of Covid-19 infection. Around 30 minutes later, they left the temple, he said.

Nguyen Thanh Hoa, a Tay Ho District resident, said she went to the temple to offer incense to the Mother Goddess and stood outside to pray for peace.

Since the 16th century, Vietnamese faithful have gathered at Buddhist pagodas, temples and other sanctuaries to worship a triumvirate of heroic female spirits revered for meting out justice and protecting the nation. All of them are called Mother Goddess.

A sanitation worker said that the number of people coming to the temple on Tuesday was not as large as in the previous months, “but they still covered the entire yard.” His garbage truck was stacked with waste dumped by devotees.

Tay Ho Temple is on the northern bank of the West Lake in Tay Ho District. It is one of the most popular places of worship in Hanoi, and is usually crowded during lunar January, March and July.

People prepare offerings to offer the Mother Goddess at Tay Ho Temple in Hanoi March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue. 

People prepare offerings to offer the Mother Goddess at Tay Ho Temple in Hanoi March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue. 

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had said at a government meeting Tuesday that religious places across the country should stop public gatherings as the coronavirus pandemic rages worldwide.

Before the PM’s order, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs had last Friday requested religious institutes to suspend upcoming major events, which usually gather big crowds at churches, pagodas and temples every year, including the Easter festival in April and the Vesak festival in May.

In early February, the premier had requested all festivals, either still in preparation phase or already launched, to reduce their scale in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The opening ceremonies of many large festivals in northern Vietnam were therefore called off.

Vietnam has recorded a total of 134 Covid-19 infections so far, including 17 who have been discharged after treatment. Of the current active cases, 14 have tested negative once, twice or three times.