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Vietnam reports 2nd death, more cases linked to hospital

HANOI – A second person died of coronavirus complications in Vietnam, officials said Saturday, a day after the country recorded its first death from the virus, while more than two dozen new cases were confirmed.

Both men died in a hospital in Da Nang, a hot spot with more than 100 cases in the past week.

The Health Ministry said a 61 year-old man died on Friday evening of septic shock and chronic kidney failure. The country's first fatality was a 70-year-old who was being treated for a kidney illness.

Vietnam reported 28 new virus cases on Saturday — 20 from Da Nang hospitals, six from local community transmissions in Da Nang and two Vietnamese nationals returning from Indonesia.

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

Fifteen other patients with COVID-19 are in critical condition, officials said. All have other underlying illnesses.

Vietnam had been seen as a global success story in combating the coronavirus with no deaths and no confirmed cases of local transmission for 99 days. But a week ago an outbreak began at a Da Nang hospital. It has spread to 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 Vietnam had a total of only 416 cases.

In Hanoi, the capital, 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 has tested a third of the 54,000 people returning 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.”

In Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s southern hub, five people who returned from Da Nang have tested positive for the virus. The city is testing some 20,000 other returnees.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is no longer an issue in Da Nang only when we have recorded cases in Quang Nam, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City among other locations,” acting health minister Nguyen Thanh Long said.

As the number of case continues to increase, Da Nang has tightened security and set up more checkpoints to prevent people from leaving or entering the city, which has been in lockdown since Tuesday.

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 known for its charming old houses 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Da Nang, stopped allowing visitors on Thursday because of the outbreak. Its pedestrian streets, adorned with lanterns, were empty and nonessential services and gatherings were banned.