Authorities in Hue in central Vietnam decided to temporarily close the pedestrian zone to avoid the gathering of people as the country had confirmed 14 cases of nCoV infection as of February 9 morning and the deadly virus has claimed lives of 813 people globally.
The zone, comprising Vo Thi Sau, Chu Van An and Pham Ngu Lao streets in Phu Hoi Ward, had become a popular area for backpackers like the famous Bui Vien walking street in Ho Chi Minh City.
The walking streets made their debut in September 2017 after authorities of Thua Thien-Hue Province green lighted a proposal to create spaces for locals and tourists to hang out at nights.
In the weekend, traffic was allowed on the streets until 6 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, the walking streets were open until 2 a.m. On Sundays, they closed at midnight. It was a popular move, attracting thousands of people to the area and boosting local business considerably.
According to the provincial tourism department, there are currently 20 tourists from mainland China, five from Hong Kong and 446 Taiwanese staying in Hue. Local authorities are closely monitoring their health.
While Vietnam has recorded 14 nCoV infections so far, none of have been detected in Thua-Thien Hue. The province has installed two devices to check visitors’ body temperatures at the Phu Bai International Airport and Chan May Port.
Hue was the capital of Vietnam under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), Vietnam's last royal family. The town is a top tourist destination, attracting 4.8 million visitors last year, up 11 percent over 2018, 2.18 million of them foreigners.
Many Vietnamese localities, including travel hotspots like Nha Trang Town and Da Nang City in central Vietnam and Quang Ninh Province in the north, home to UNESCO world heritage Ha Long Bay, have ordered tour companies to stop accepting Chinese customers to limit the spread of nCoV.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam suspended flights to and from China starting last week, except for a limited number to repatriate the remaining Chinese tourists in Vietnam, and vice versa.
The global death toll from the epidemic has reached 813, with 811 dying in mainland China, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.