© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man wears a protective mask as he drives past a banner promoting prevention against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hanoi, Vietnam July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam reported 102 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday as the Southeast Asian country battled a fast-spreading outbreak which Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said threatened political stability if not brought under control.

The new cases raised the total to 3,332 since the pandemic began, with 35 deaths, the Ministry of Health said.

Vietnam has been praised for its record in containing its outbreaks quickly through targeted mass testing and a strict, centralised quarantine programme.

But a new outbreak emerged late last month and has spread rapidly in the country, infecting 333 people in 25 cities and provinces, including the capital Hanoi, and leaving around 10 hospitals under lockdown.

“The risk for the outbreak to spread nationwide is very high,” Chinh said on Sunday. “We need to deploy stronger measures to curb the outbreak.

“If the outbreak spread nationwide, it would affect political stability, people’s health and the National Assembly and People’s Council elections, and the consequence would be unpredictable.”

Chinh said coronavirus infections in neighbouring countries has put pressure on Vietnam, adding that illegal immigrants were among the prime sources of the virus.

Of the 102 new cases, 92 were transmitted locally, the health ministry said.

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