Thousands of people scaled the steps of a mountain temple in northern Vietnam on Tuesday, April 20, to burn incense sticks and make spiritual offerings, shrugging off concerns about the coronavirus risks as outbreaks rage in nearby countries.
As many as 30,000 people were expected to visit the Hung Kings temple in Phu Tho province, authorities said, to commemorate the anniversary of the death of a semi-mythical Vietnamese king, Lac Long Quan.
Visitors were met by guards offering free face masks and hand sanitizer before navigating the temple steps, measures that Do Ti Yen, 64, said were reassuring.
“The whole world is fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, but coming to this temple of Hung Kings, I found that the organizers have implemented very tight preventive measures,” he said.
Vietnam has been one of Asia’s biggest success stories in fighting the coronavirus, credited with decisive measures to track infections and contain outbreaks. It has reported just 35 deaths and fewer than 2,800 cases.
The festival comes as neighboring Cambodia and nearby Thailand and the Philippines battle their biggest outbreaks so far, fueled by the arrival of highly transmissible COVID-19 variants.
The annual festival was recognized in 2012 by UN cultural agency UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.
“I can see that Vietnam has squashed the virus, or is very close to doing so with only a few cases left, that’s why I am not worried being here today,” said Do Van Chung, 24.
Nguyen Tai May, 62, said it was important to still take precautions.
“Vietnam has done wonderfully. I believe that it’s unlikely that Vietnam will have another outbreak again. We can’t let our guard down but I think the number of cases will be very low,” she said.