Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Saturday issued a new set of guidelines on measures to keep the country clear of Covid-19 while its economy restarts after strict social distancing measures were relaxed.

Decree No 19 is meant to replace Decree No 16, which required people to stay at home unless for justified reasons and all non-essential businesses to close down for three weeks since April 1, but expired on Wednesday.

Phuc noted that during the implementation of Decree 16, the country has identified and dealt with the local outbreaks and contained the spread of community transmission, while most confirmed patients – 270 as of Sunday – had been successfully treated and no deaths had been recorded so far.

However, “the pandemic continues to show complicated developments and the risks of new outbreaks remain at a high level, having adverse impacts on Vietnam’s socio-economic situation and people’s livelihoods”, says the decree.

To ensure the effectiveness of pandemic prevention measures while maintaining the growth of the economy, social welfare and all levels of the administration are to act on the motto “fighting the pandemic like fighting against the enemy”, mobilising the engagement of both the political system and the public.

Phuc stressed that Vietnam would continue to implement preventive and combative measures as before, with absolutely “no negligence and complacence” – preventing outbreaks, identifying, quarantining, and suppressing outbreaks while effectively carrying out treatment activities to minimise the number of possible deaths.

The governments of centrally-directed provinces and cities can decide to lift certain restrictions meant to curb the pandemic depending on their situation but must make sure that they keep the situation under control, especially in major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

People are told to frequently wash hands with soap or other disinfectants, wear masks when going out and maintain a reasonable distance in making contact with others, not to gather in large crowds in public places or outside workplaces, schools or hospitals.

All festivals, religious gatherings, sporting events or any event that involves a large crowd in public places, stadiums or other “unnecessary major events” will continue to be banned.

Non-essential service businesses such as entertainment venues, beauty salons, karaoke bars, massage parlours, bars, pubs and discos – including other forms of service businesses that the cities and provinces’ authorities might supplement in their decisions – will remain closed.

Businesses such as retail and wholesale stores, lottery, hotels, accommodation businesses, restaurants and eateries, sports centres, historical relics and tourist sites can resume operations, keeping in mind preventive measures such as providing their employees with necessary protective gear, recording temperatures of all arrivals or customers, complying with hand washing and disinfection guidelines and ensuring a safe distance between customers.

Public transport – including inter-provincial transport – are allowed to resume, with observation of the transport ministry’s guidelines on preventive measures such as passengers and drivers must wear masks and soap and hand disinfectants must be fully supplied. Air transport authorities can issue additional measures in line with their industry’s safety standard.

Schools can start to re-open after months off since the outbreak began in the country in early February, but the school administration must reduce the number of students in each class to maintain a proper safe distance, alternate schedules to reduce crowds in classes or canteens, frequently disinfect classrooms, and continue to incorporate online lessons if available.

Factories and manufacturing businesses can start operations while making sure that their workers are protected.

Leaders of public agencies, organisations and businesses have the responsibility to develop working frameworks to ensure safety and hygiene for their staff or employees, refrain from holding large meetings or events if not necessary, and make sure that all affairs of time-sensitive nature must be done on time.

Local governments can decide to hold important social, political, or economic events, but measures are required, like ordering wearing of masks and sterilising hands, arranging seating for participants in a way that safe distance could still be upheld.

Phuc reserves the authority to decide the level of Covid-19 risks for each centrally-directed province and city, in line with recommendations from the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control.

If placed under a high-risk category, the city or province will carry out strict social distancing measures as stated in Decree 16 issued on March 31.

For cities or provinces in the medium-risk category – which Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City currently belong to – people are still recommended to not go out unless necessary and practice preventive measures.

No gatherings of more than 20 people in public places or outside the office, schools or hospitals are allowed, and a safe distance of 1m must be maintained.

For cities and provinces in the low-risk category, gatherings of 30 people are not allowed, the safe distance remains at 1m, and people should not go out unless necessary.