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Coronavirus

Vietnam halts Europe visa waivers as nation's virus cases double

Hotel where Kim Jong Un met Donald Trump temporarily closed

The century-old Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has been shut down for disinfection after two U.K. tourists at the hotel tested positive for the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Tomoya Onishi)

HANOI -- Vietnam suspended visa-free travel for citizens of eight European countries on Monday, including the U.K., France and Germany, after reported cases of the novel coronavirus in the Asian nation nearly doubled over the weekend.

Visitors from these three countries as well as Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Spain will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine, joining those from hard-hit Italy. 

The move marks an expansion of travel restrictions by Vietnam, which had already imposed quarantines on visitors from China and South Korea.

The government is considering a halt to visa exemptions for countries that have reported more than 500 coronavirus cases overall or more than 50 new infections daily, according to local media. These criteria would cover Japan and the U.S.

After reporting no new cases since Feb. 14, Vietnam on Friday confirmed its first infection in Hanoi. The country detected 14 new cases by the end of the weekend, lifting its total to 30. The increase appears linked to a Vietnam Airlines flight from London that arrived in the capital on March 2.

Authorities have locked down an area in downtown Hanoi where several of the new patients reside. The century-old Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, where U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in February 2019, has closed temporarily for disinfection after two U.K. tourists staying there tested positive for the virus.

The spate of cases has led to quarantines covering hundreds of people nationwide, including Vietnam's planning and investment minister.

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