Vietnam, now, has four deaths due to COVID-19. No details have been released about the third and fourth, which follows the first two reported only last Friday.
The first death was that of a 70 year-old man from the central city of Hoi An, a city of 120,000 persons in Quang Nam province on the country's east coast. A second death, a 61-year-old man, was reported late Friday.
Both fatalities had underlying health conditions, said the official state run news outlet, the Vietnam News Agency. Before Friday, Vietnam's leaders had widely boasted of their success in keeping Vietnam the only country in Asia without a single death due to COVID-19.
This 100 day streak of luck has ended and, based on patterns in all other countries, these first deaths will be followed by many others. Vietnam had reported 586 total confirmed infections, as of Saturday based on Worldometer data. More worryingly, 82 new infections were reported on that same day, said the Ministry of Health. Of this number, 26 are imported. The 86 cases in a single day is Vietnam's biggest single-day jump and a clear indicator of the disease's widening community spread.
The health ministry said the new cases in Danang are linked to three hospitals and two clinics in the city. It's dispatched a task force of health experts and more than 1,000 health workers to Danang to assist local authorities quell the new outbreak.
Vietnam had gone for three months without a single new COVID-19 case before an unexpected cluster of new cases of unknown origin was confirmed in the popular resort city of Danang last week. Danang was locked down Wednesday.
"We have to act more swiftly and more fiercely in order to control the outbreak," said Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The cluster infections in Danang triggered an immediate and tough response nationwide from the country's communist leadership.
In the capital Hanoi, mass coronavirus testing began Thursday. Some 22,000 people had been tested by noon Friday, said the Hanoi Center for Disease Control (HCDC). More than 21,000 tested negative. What this figure means is unclear as HCDC has not explained it.
Hanoi has also banned large gatherings and urged tens of thousands of domestic travelers to be tested. Bars and nightclubs have been closed. On midnight Friday, Hanoi also closed street food stalls and karaoke bars. On the other hand, restaurants and supermarkets can remain open but must implement social-distancing measures.
The communist government of Vietnam is downplaying the death of the first Vietnamese citizen to die from COVID-19, however. The death of this elderly man was front page, headline news in traditional and social media sites Friday afternoon. Some of these stories were deleted a few hours later or moved further down on the front page.
Some government news outlets then took the unusual move of claiming in new stories this man had died from a heart attack, or an underlying illness, but not solely from COVID-19.