​Kite surfers crowd beach in Binh Thuan, Vietnam’s COVID-19 epicenter

Kite surfers crowd beach in Binh Thuan, Vietnam’s COVID-19 epicenter
Foreigners go kite surfing at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

The news that nine residents in the south-central province of Binh Thuan have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has not seemed to hinder tourist activities at the province’s famous Mui Ne Beach, as many foreigners were still spotted kite surfing there on the weekend.

Endowed with a magnificent view, Mui Ne Beach is located in a wave-enabling strait landscape with decent wind speed, which places it in a top spot on every kite surfer’s to-do list in Vietnam.

On a fairly sunny day, the beach would welcome crowds of tourists flocking to jump on the thrilling bandwagon.

That sight has not faltered much after cases of COVID-19 infection were confirmed in Binh Thuan, where nine patients are now quarantined for treatment at a hospital some 25 kilometers away from the beach.

On Sunday, there was barely any halt to beach endeavors at Mui Ne.

From the early morning, the warm weather and lovely breezes attracted a keen number of tourists, the majority of whom were Russian nationals.

A Russian tourist gets ready for kite surfing at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

A Russian tourist gets ready for kite surfing at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

Mui Ne welcomes a considerable number of Russian tourists every year, making up the majority of foreign visitors to Binh Thuan.

Despite a horde of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Vietnam in the first half of March, Russian travelers were still spotted roaming the streets around Mui Ne Beach from Ham Tan Ward to Mui Ne Ward, both in the provincial capital city of Phan Thiet, on the weekend.

“The epidemic is ongoing but none of the Russian tourists seem to bother. They still feast, swim, surf and then feast again. [They’re] carefree and almost have no regard for wearing masks or using hand sanitizer,” said the owner of a Russian-packed resort in Ham Tien Ward, also in Phan Thiet.

“When asked whether they were worried about getting infected, they just grinned and responded that running out of vodka was even scarier to them than the novel coronavirus.”

Russian travelers are seen on a street in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

Russian travelers are seen on a street in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

On Saturday, Binh Thuan authorities announced that all bars, karaoke parlors, Internet cafés, gaming hubs, yoga centers, and gyms would be closed to prevent the spreading COVID-19.

Due to the mass closures, the main street in Mui Ne is stripped off its everyday sparks.

Nonetheless, some of the still-open locations are functioning well as the demand from Russian tourists remains consistent.

One resort owner in Ham Tien revealed that he still receives quite a few accommodation bookings from Russian visitors.

To perform their due diligence, most lodging owners only accept Russian visitors with proper medical clearance who travel with authorized tourism service providers, whereas solo travelers or tourists from other countries affected by COVID-19 would most likely be denied service.

A closure sign in English is seen outside a bar-cafe in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

A closure sign in English is seen outside a bar-café in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

First emerging in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, the COVID-19-causing novel coronavirus has infected over 182,500 people and killed more than 7,100 globally, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

The latest rises in contracted cases over the last few days saw climactic responses taken by world leaders, including total lockdowns, bans on mass gathering and public events as well as global travel restrictions.

Vietnam has announced 61 cases of COVID-19 infection, with 16 having fully recovered.

A still-open restaurant in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

A still-open restaurant in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

Binh Thuan is under national scrutiny as an emerging COVID-19 hotspot with nine cases diagnosed since March 10.

All nine cases have been traced back to the 34th patient, a Vietnamese woman returning from a U.S. trip that included transit time in South Korea and Qatar.

Vietnam has temporarily stopped allowing visitors from 26 countries in Europe’s Schengen Area and the UK to enter the country for 30 days, starting on March 15.

Surfers challenge waves near a seawall at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

Surfers challenge waves near a sea wall at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

A kite surfing instructor (R) demonstrates how to operate the kite at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

A kite surfing instructor (R) demonstrates how to operate the kite at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

Tourist go kite surfing at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

Tourists go kite surfing at Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

A restaurant is closed on a street in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

A restaurant is closed on a street in Mui Ne, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

Touirists crowd Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

Tourists crowd Mui Ne Beach in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, March 15, 2020. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre

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