Asia Pacific

Panic-buying as Vietnam announces broad COVID-19 curbs in biggest city

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Vinhomes Central Park and Landmark 81, Vietnam's tallest building are seen from the Saigon river in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yen Duong/File Photo

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  • Quarantine, tests for outbound travellers
  • Public transport halted, gatherings banned
  • 1,000 new cases reported for 3rd day
  • Vietnam has strong COVID-19 containment record

HANOI, July 7 (Reuters) - Vietnam will impose tight movement restrictions in its commercial hub Ho Chi Minh city from the end of the week to tackle a coronavirus outbreak, its health ministry said on Wednesday, in some of its strictest curbs yet.

The measures effective for 15 days from Friday include a stay-home order, a ban on more than two people gathering and a closure of public transport services, the ministry said.

"Fighting the pandemic is fighting the enemy," the city chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong said in a health ministry statement.

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"We have to accept to sacrifice short-term interests to prevent and fight the pandemic."

The measures were widely anticipated, with panic-buying seen around the city of 9 million people, the epicentre of the latest outbreak. State media reported unrest at a city jail where dozens of inmates were infected.

The health ministry on Wednesday said outbound travellers from the city would be subjected to a week of quarantine and testing at their destinations, a day after dozens of flights were suspended to control the spread.

The capital Hanoi on Wednesday banned public gathering of more than 10 people.

Vietnam reported over 1,000 cases for the first time on Monday and similar numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday, most of those in Ho Chi Minh City, where residents were rushing to secure supplies.

"Many of the shelves are completely empty, and I'm very worried about the situation," said Truong Thi Ngoc.

Vietnam's overall case tally is low having quickly contained most coronavirus outbreaks, but its current one has lasted more than two months and about 40% of the cases have been in the southern city.

It has 12,000 hospital beds prepared for treating coronavirus patients there, according to the health ministry.

Traders said speculation about a strict lockdown had caused a 4% plunge in Vietnam's benchmark index (.VNI) on Tuesday. The index recovered 2.5% on Wednesday.

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Editing by Martin Petty

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