Vietnam orders non-essential businesses to close for 2 weeksMarch 27, 2020 12:30pm

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's government on Friday ordered all non-essential businesses to close for at least two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said shopping malls, in-restaurant dining, bars and other businesses that do not provide basic necessities must shut starting at midnight.

Unnecessary gatherings of more than 20 people were also banned. The prime minister also encouraged businesses to allow staff to work from home if possible.

Although the ban did not take effect until midnight, the normally bustling streets in Hanoi's old quarter were quiet Friday afternoon.

Kim Anh, a shop owner, said the closures would hurt the economy but are needed at this crucial moment in the fight against the pandemic. She was selling face masks in front of her closed silk and souvenir shop.

Vietnam has already shut schools and canceled festivals and sporting events.

It has reported 153 cases of the coronavirus, including 20 people who have been cured and discharged from hospitals.

Vietnam has quarantined nearly 60,000 people who entered the country from virus-infected nations or had contact with infected people, according to the health ministry.

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