Vietnam reported nine more new Covid-19 infections early on Friday as the country's first outbreak for nearly two months spread to Hanoi, the capital, where the ruling Communist Party is currently holding its key five-yearly congress.
The new cases, including one in Hanoi and eight in nearby Haiphong city and Hai Duong, Quang Ninh and Bac Ninh provinces, brought the total number of cases in the outbreak that began on Thursday to 93, the Ministry of Health said.
One of the first two cases recorded on Thursday was exposed to an individual who had tested positive in Japan for the more contagious UK variant. The ministry said it was still analysing gene sequences to determine if the new patients had contracted the new variant.
The total number of cases recorded since the coronavirus was first detected in Vietnam a year ago stands at 1,651, including imported cases, with 35 deaths.
The ministry said the case in Hanoi is linked to an airport worker in Quang Ninh province who tested positive on Thursday along with 83 others, the first locally transmitted cases in the country for 55 days and the biggest single-day outbreak so far.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged calm and promised swift action at an urgently called meeting on the sidelines of the congress on Thursday when the wearing of face masks at the event was made mandatory. Against a backdrop of a buoyant economy, bolstered by keeping coronavirus cases in check so far, the congress will select Vietnam's leadership and shape policy for the next five years and beyond.
Anti-virus measures were stepped up at the congress venue on Friday, with all support staff and media in attendance scheduled for another round of testing - the third for those involved since the run-up to the event began. The health ministry previously said it conducted 10,000 tests in association with the congress.
At an urgent meeting held on Thursday night, Hanoi authorities said they were ramping up tracking and testing capabilities, adding that the city can conduct 10,000 tests a day. State television quoted the coronavirus taskforce chief as saying preparations should be made for a scenario of up to 30,000 Covid-19 cases.
The health ministry has proposed halting international flights and banning large gatherings ahead of the Lunar New year holiday season, just two weeks away. The government late on Thursday said it will build three field hospitals in Hai Duong province, without giving their sizes.
State media on Friday reported a deputy police chief of Hanoi said the city has no shortage of policemen to help handle the outbreak, despite the ongoing Party congress.