VUNG TAU, Vietnam (AP) — The roadblocks and barricades make the streets of this southern Vietnamese city look like they did during the war that ended almost 50 years ago. But this time, the battle is being fought against the rampaging coronavirus.
In Vung Tau, just outside Ho Chi Minh city, streets are sealed and checkpoints are set up to control the movement of people. Barbed wire, door panels, steel sheets, chairs and tables are among materials being used to fence up alleys and isolate neighborhoods.
A coastal city with half a million people, Vung Tau was untouched by COVID-19 for most of the pandemic. Life was lived much as normal until the first case was registered in late July and the delta variant started to spread in the southern region.
A lockdown was ordered quickly. The city's white sand beaches, which had been packed with tourists, were emptied and closed. Residents are asked to stay home and can only go out on the streets for necessities once a week.
“Fighting this pandemic is like fighting the enemy,” is the slogan repeated by Vietnamese authorities whenever they address the public about the pandemic these days, calling on people to join the fight by “staying put wherever you are.”
The situation is the same for half of Vietnam’s population, who are also under the lockdown order to battle the country’s worst outbreak yet.
The government hopes to slow the infection rate, reduce the pressure on the health care system and allow more time to vaccinate more people.
Just 6.9% of Vietnam’s population is fully vaccinated.
In only over four months, the virus has infected nearly 700,000 people and killed over 17,000, according to the Health Ministry. Almost all of the fatalities have been from this latest wave.