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Vietnam-China Train Stopped in its Tracks Amid Ongoing Virus Fears

 For the first time in 11 years, the train crossing the border from Vietnam into China will stop running amid continuing coronavirus concerns. 

The train, which runs from Hanoi's Gia Lam station up to the border, before Chinese trains continue the journey to Nanning, saw its last departure on Tuesday, according to VnExpress. Over 100 passengers, mostly Chinese, boarded the final train. 

The last train heading from China into Vietnam had barely any passengers - one Vietnamese and one British - thanks to ongoing travel bans from infected regions in China. Normally, one service per day leaves from the Vietnamese capital and travels via Bac Giang and Bac Ninh provinces before reaching the border province of Lang Son. All further ticket sales have now been halted. 

The move follows the suspension of flights between Vietnam and China and a temporary ban on issuing tourist visas to Chinese nationals. Preventative steps are also being taken at the country's international airports and border crossings — anyone entering Vietnam from China will be quarantined for 14 days under orders from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

In other recent developments, Tuoi Tre reports that the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and Training has received approval to extend public school closures by another week.

This means students would return to class on February 16, instead of February 9. According to Zing, Quang Ngai, Dong Thap and Dong Nai provinces had already decided to keep public schools closed next week. 

Meanwhile, AFP reports that field hospitals housing thousands of beds are being set up nationwide, though the number of confirmed infections remains low, at just 10. Two facilities in Saigon will feature 500 beds, while in Hanoi, two military bases will house around 950 Vietnamese nationals expected to be returned from China during quarantine procedures. Facilities in the far north with 3,000 beds are also being prepared, while central Vietnam is creating space for 3,700 beds.

It has also been announced that anyone who thinks they have the virus will be tested for free anywhere in Vietnam — the Vietnam Social Insurance health fund will fund tests for fever, coughing and breathing problems.

These moves come as the death toll from the virus in China has hit 563 and the number of confirmed cases has skyrocketed to 28,018. Bloomberg reports that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has applied for a patent to use an antiviral drug called remdesivir to treat the infection. Its spread has led Chinese authorities to place tens of millions of people under strict lockdown conditions.