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Asia Pacific

Vietnamese flock to festival, shrug off outbreak risk

2 minute read

Thousands of people scaled the steps of a mountain temple in northern Vietnam on Tuesday to burn incense sticks and make spiritual offerings, shrugging off concerns about the coronavirus risks as outbreaks rage in nearby countries.

As many as 30,000 people were expected to visit the Hung Kings temple in Phu Tho province, authorities said, to honour the 18 kings of the Hong Bang dynasty.

Visitors were met by guards offering free face masks and hand sanitizer before navigating the temple steps, measures that Do Thi Yen, 64, said were reassuring.

"The whole world is fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, but coming to this temple of Hung Kings, I found that the organisers have implemented very tight preventive measures," he said.

Vietnam has been one of Asia's biggest success stories in fighting the coronavirus, credited with decisive measures to track infections and contain outbreaks. It has reported just 35 deaths and fewer than 2,800 cases.

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People attend a music show during Hung Kings' Festival in a first massive gathering, after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions were lifted, in Phu Tho province, Vietnam, April 20, 2021. REUTERS/Thanh Hue

The festival comes as neighbouring Cambodia and nearby Thailand and the Philippines battle their biggest outbreaks so far, fuelled by the arrival of highly transmissible COVID-19 variants.

The annual festival was recognised in 2012 by UN cultural agency UNESCO as an "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity".

"I can see that Vietnam has squashed the virus, or is very close to doing so with only a few cases left, that's why I am not worried being here today," said Do Van Chung, 24.

Nguyen Tai May, 62, said it was important to still take precautions.

“Vietnam has done wonderfully. I believe that it’s unlikely that Vietnam will have another outbreak again. We can’t let our guard down but I think the number of cases will be very low,” she said.

(This story corrects paragraph 2 to show the festival was to commemorate the 18 Hung kings of the Hong Bang dynasty, not specifically King Lac Long Quan)

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