The international airport of Vietnam's capital will suspend inbound flights from abroad beginning Tuesday, the country's aviation body announced, as it grapples with a fresh wave of coronavirus outbreaks.
Vietnam's Covid-19 cases have more than doubled in the past month and its health minister said over the weekend that authorities have discovered a highly infectious "new hybrid variant" -- a combination of the Indian and UK variants.
While they promptly rolled back the assertion by clarifying that the mutation still needed to be "studied further", alarm sounded across the country as it struggled to contain fresh outbreaks in more than half its territory.
The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) said in a statement Monday that the "temporary suspension of receiving international flights transporting people" will begin at Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport from June 1 at midnight until June 7.
Before Monday's announcement, the communist country had already severely limited entries of foreign arrivals, and every person coming in is subjected to mandatory quarantine for 21 days in mostly state-run facilities.
Nine out of the 23 scheduled inbound flights to Noi Bai on Monday were transporting passengers, while the rest were bringing in cargo.
Outbound international flights will continue, but the statement did not specify if domestic flights would be part of Noi Bai's suspension.
The announcement for Hanoi's airport comes days after Ho Chi Minh City -- Vietnam's southern business hub -- issued a similar halt on foreign arrivals to its Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Tan Son Nhat's suspension was meant to be lifted by June 4, but the CAAV announced Monday it would continue until June 14.
- Testing high-risk areas -
Ho Chi Minh City -- Vietnam's most populous with some nine million residents -- had announced social distancing measures on Sunday, while ramping up testing.
Nguyen Hoai Nam, the deputy head of the Ho Chi Minh City's department of health, told state-run media Monday that samples will be collected from high-risk areas.
"First we will focus on these areas, then expand to localities with also high risk," he said in Tuoi Tre newspaper Monday.
"(We are) not taking samples of people in the whole city."
The targeted areas includes Go Vap district -- where its 670,000 residents are currently under lockdown -- the historic Tan Phu, and all of Ho Chi Minh City's industrial zones.
This would mean nearly a million people would be tested.
Vietnam has been lauded for its quick Covid-19 response early in the pandemic last year, registering some of the lowest infection numbers in the world.
So far, Vietnam has registered a total of more than 7,300 cases and 47 deaths.