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Vietnam Confirms 15th Coronavirus Case as Export Fallout Worries Grow

2020-02-11 -- Vietnam's Ministry of Health Tuesday confirmed the country's 15th case of novel coronavirus on Tuesday, while the fishing and tourist industries in China's populous Southeast Asian neighbor expressed concern about the economic impact of a prolonged outbreak.

The newest patient is a three-month-old baby who contracted the virus from the patient's grandmother.

State media reported that the baby's grandmother had contracted the virus from her daughter, the baby's mother, who was among a group of eight Vietnamese workers returning to Vietnam's Vinh Phuc province from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the now global outbreak.

The 14th case was a neighbor of one of the eight workers, and so far 10 people in Vinh Phuc have tested positive for nCoV.

The head of the ministry's Treatment Examination Management Department, Luong Ngoc Khue, told the media that the baby is undergoing treatment in a clinic. The ministry will dispatch experts to the clinic in Vinh Phuc to support the treatment.

The ministry also asked Vinh Phuc to expand its quarantine plans and provide updated lists of people who should be isolated, because they estimate that more confirmed cases of nCoV in the province is likely.

Vinh Phuc 's Binh Xuyen district on the same day established eight health check zones to assess the body temperature of residents they suspect might be infected with the virus.

Seven of the 15 confirmed coronavirus patients in Vietnam have been cured and sent home.

Seafood exports down

As it battles to contain the coronavirus, Vietnam is bracing for a big hit to tourist revenue from the epidemic, with authorities saying Chinese tourists, which accounted for a third of Vietnam's 18 million tourists, would decrease by more than 2 million in 2020, leading to a loss of tourism revenue of US $1.8-2 billion.

As the virus spreads across the region, Vietnam's exports of marine products to China have been suspended.

Vietnam's aquatic export revenue in January was down, reaching just US $650 million, a decrease of 12.5 percent compared to the same period last year, said the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters & Producers (VASEP).

According to VASEP deputy general secretary Nguyen Hoai Nam, some seafood exporters are facing late payments from Chinese partners because Chinese banks have not yet re-opened.

In addition, many large-scale shipping firms have suspended deliveries to China.

Many of Vietnam's shrimp exporters say Chinese importers announced a change in their schedule for receiving shipments, meaning hundreds of tons of shrimp that have been prepared for shipment are in limbo because of the delay.

However, VASEP General Secretary Truong Dinh Hoe said the impact of coronavirus to the seafood industry in the first months of 2020 are not very serious.

VASEP is trying to support Vietnamese seafood exporters in seeking new import markets in the United States, Japan, or the EU, Truong said.

In addition, the association is advising Vietnamese fisheries to produce more frozen and canned products in the meantime.

The Ministry of Industry & Commerce said hundreds of trucks carrying Vietnamese agricultural products are on lockdown at border gates due to the impact of coronavirus.

Cambodia PM urges calm

Meanwhile, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen called on Cambodians not to be afraid of nCoV and to stop discriminating against Chinese people over fears of the disease.

The remarks came Tuesday during an inauguration ceremony for recently repaired national highways, with hundreds in attendance.

Hun Sen said that the world must solve two major issues to stop the spread of coronavirus. First it must find a vaccine and second it must develop medicines to allay people's fears.

The prime minister said that fear and discrimination are more serious conditions than coronavirus itself. He told the people to stop discriminating against Chinese because a Chinese patient was successfully treated in Preah Sihanouk province after he was discovered to be infected.

"I'm really happy that we Khmer people do not discriminate against Chinese tourists and investors that we've welcomed into Cambodia," said Hun Sen.

"There are even hotels in Siem Reap province that offer discounts to Chinese tourists. Thanks for showing them our kindness," he added.

Hun Sen has been an outspoken supporter of keeping connections with China active during the epidemic, even as other ASEAN countries have temporarily stopped travel and trade with China to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

"Some people criticize me for being too pro-Chinese, but you have to understand that our friendship is good for Cambodia's political, economic, and social stability," he said.

"You have to understand this. If you don't please go learn more. And for those who have discriminated against China, you will see what China has to say about you when this is all over," he added.

He also had a message to the other ASEAN countries.

"I'm not trying to discipline you, but later on when you have to reopen flights, China might say they will consider it. That word, 'consider,' that could be dangerous to those countries who unilaterally closed China off," said Hun Sen.

Cambodia to date has had only one confirmed case of nCoV within its borders, a Chinese traveler who arrived in Preah Sihanouk province on July 23 and was discovered to be infected two days later.

Kheang Phearum, a spokesman for the province, told RFA's Khmer Service Tuesday that the 60-year-old traveler had left the country that morning with three members of his family.

"We tested the Chinese man at the Pasteur Institute three times and each time he turned up negative, so he is no longer infected with coronavirus," said Phearum.

The spokesman added that no others in the province have been found infected with coronavirus.

Chinese diplomat appeals to Myanmar

A Chinese diplomat stationed in Myanmar said people there do not need to worry about coronavirus because Chinese authorities have it under control.

Deputy Consul General Li Libei, at the Chinese Consulate in Mandalay, told a press conference that in the closest Chinese province, Yunnan in southwestern China, the situation there is not very serious.

"I want to inform you about the situation in Yunnan province. These days infection rates in Yunnan are minimal and the numbers are decreasing," said Li.

"If Yunnan is safe, there is no reason to worry about an outbreak here in Mandalay," she added.

"In the past week we have seen many patients recover, including 19 in Yunnan. Nobody in Yunnan has died, so we must compare the situation of Yunnan with the [rest of China]."

Myanmar has yet to confirm a single case of nCoV.

According to data compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, worldwide more than 43,000 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported, with more than 42,000 in China alone.

To date, there have been 1,018 deaths globally, with 974 in China.

Reported by RFA's Vietnamese and Khmer Services and Khaymani Win for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Huy Le, Pheap Aun and Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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