VUNG TAU – Vietnam will lift the lockdown on its largest city on Friday, ending nearly three months of movement restrictions to curb a wave of coronavirus.
Residents of Ho Chi Minh City, a metropolis of 10 million, will be able to leave their homes, restaurants will be able to serve take-out meals and other essential businesses will be able to open, the city announced on its website on Thursday.
However, a social distancing order will still be enforced. Schools are closed, public transport remains suspended, movement inside and outside the city will be controlled and public gatherings of more than 10 people outside are prohibited.
People wishing to participate in social activities will need to show proof of vaccination to be admitted to facilities, authorities said.
Ho Chi Minh City and 18 southern provinces were stranded in mid-July when cases started to rise.
In the past three months, the delta variant of the virus has infected 770,000 people and killed more than 19,000, according to the health ministry. Most of the deaths from COVID-19 in Vietnam occurred during this wave, with Ho Chi Minh City accounting for the majority of them.
Other southern cities have also eased lockdown restrictions, gradually resuming operations as infections decline.
Over the past week, the average number of new cases in Vietnam fell by a third from the start of the month, when 14,000 were recorded daily, the health ministry said.
In the town of Vung Tau, 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City, barricades set up on the streets to control traffic during the lockdown were removed to applause from local residents.
“We will have to celebrate this day, for the city to remove the barricades so that we can go out again and resume normal life,” said local resident Pham Van Thanh as he helped officers remove a barricade on his street.
Vietnam is speeding up vaccinations in order to reopen the country, with priority for large cities and vulnerable places such as industrial zones.
The Ho Chi Minh City health authority last week approved reducing the interval between two AstraZeneca injections to six weeks, from the eight to 12 weeks recommended by manufacturers, in order to fully immunize people quickly.
The health ministry says 98.5% of adults in the city have been vaccinated and 48% of them have received both vaccines.
However, Vietnam’s overall vaccination rate remains low with only 9.3% of its 98 million people fully vaccinated. The authority said the lack of supply was the reason for the delay in virus inoculation.
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