vietnam covid
A man rides a bike on an empty street amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 31, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters

Hanoi: Vietnam announced the suspension of incoming international flights to its capital and tightened restrictions in its biggest city on Monday, as part efforts to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has seen cases double in the past month.

After successfully containing coronavirus outbreaks for most of last year, Vietnam is seeing infections rise sharply and has detected several highly transmissible variants, including a new one announced on Saturday that had elements of the variants first identified in Britain and India.

The inbound flight suspension to Hanoi will apply from June 1 to June 7 and made no mention of domestic flights. Vietnam has been restricting inbound international flights since the start of the pandemic.

It follows a similar move by the business hub Ho Chi Minh City, which on Monday started 15 days of measures that include bans on dining in restaurants and public gatherings of more than 10 people, plus closures of casinos and beauty salons. It has urged people over 60 to stay indoors.

Vietnam, a country of 98 million people, has recorded 7,236 COVID-19 infections so far, one of the world's lowest caseloads.

It has reported 47 deaths overall.

The new outbreak has reached 34 of its 63 provinces and comes at a time when only about 28,000 people have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Vietnam on Monday said the "combination" announced by authorities at the weekend was the Indian variant with a mutation that had been found in the British variant.

The WHO said that among some 32 samples from people infected people with the Indian COVID-19 variant in clusters in northern Vietnam, four had a Y144 deletion mutation in the spike protein.

"Virus mutations are to be expected," Kidong Park said.

"WHO Vietnam is working with our national counterparts to monitor this new mutation and support investigation as needed."

Vietnam plans to test all 9 million people in its largest city for the coronavirus and imposed more restrictions Monday to deal with a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

People in Ho Chi Minh city are only allowed to leave home for necessary activities and public gatherings of more than 10 people are banned for the next two weeks, the government announced. Prior to the order, the city, also Vietnam's economic hub, shut down non-essential business last Thursday when cases started to increase.

State newspaper Vietnam News said the city authority is planning to test its entire population with a testing capacity of 100,000 samples a day.