Vietnam reports its first-ever COVID-19 death after new infection outbreak

People wait in line to be tested for COVID-19 in Hanoi, Vietnam
People wait in line Friday to be tested for COVID-19 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
(Hau Dinh / Associated Press)

Vietnam on Friday reported its first-ever COVID-19 death as the Southeast Asian nation struggles with a renewed coronavirus outbreak after 99 days without any cases.

The Health Ministry said a 70-year-old man died after contracting the disease while being treated for a kidney illness at a hospital in the coastal city of Da Nang. More than 90 new cases have been confirmed in the past week, more than half of them patients at that hospital.

Da Nang is Vietnam’s most popular beach destination, and thousands of visitors have flocked there for summer vacation. Across the country, authorities are rushing to test people who have returned home from the city.


Dr. Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the country’s Administration of Medical Examination and Treatment, said there are at least six other elderly patients with COVID-19 currently in critical condition. All have other underlying illnesses, he said.

Vietnam had been seen as a global success story in combating the coronavirus, with zero deaths and no confirmed cases of local transmission for 99 days.

But a week ago, an outbreak began at the Da Nang hospital.

About 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, are being evacuated from the popular Vietnamese beach city of Da Nang after a new coronavirus outbreak.

It has grown to 104 confirmed cases in six parts of the country, including three of the largest cities, forcing authorities to reimpose virus restrictions.

Experts worry the actual number of cases could be far higher. Before the latest outbreak it had a total of only 416 cases.

In Hanoi, where two people have tested positive after returning from Da Nang, over 100 clinics have been set up with test kits to detect the virus. Hanoi is expected to test about 21,000 people who declared that they had recently returned from Da Nang.

“I want to be tested so I can stop worrying if I have the virus or not. It is for me and for the community,” said Pham Thuy Hoa, a banking official who recently went to Da Nang for a family vacation. “Since coming back, my family and I have quarantined ourselves at home. I did not go to work or see others. We must be responsible for the entire community.”

Ho Chi Minh City plans to test 18,000 Da Nang returnees.

Da Nang was put under lockdown on Tuesday, and testing and business restrictions increased in other areas. The city on Friday began setting up a makeshift hospital in a sports auditorium and doctors have been mobilized from other cities to help.

Hoi An, an ancient town and top tourist destination 12 miles south of Da Nang, known for its charming old houses, stopped allowing visitors on Thursday because of the outbreak. Its pedestrian streets, adorned with lanterns, were empty and nonessential services and gatherings were banned.