A cold spell that has been moving through northern Vietnam will linger for another week before slowly receding, said Bui Minh Tang, director of the National Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting.
"The cold front has been moving through the north with drizzling rain and overcast skies since December 30 and snow has been forecast for the mountainous areas in the coming days," he said, adding that the temperatures are expected to increase a bit beginning January 15.
The center reported on Wednesday that the cold spell has reached provinces in the north-central region and there have been strong winds and rough seas in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Temperatures have dropped to 8.7 degrees Celsius in Hanoi recently, minus 0.1 degree in Sa Pa in Lao Cai Province and zero degrees in the Mau Son area of Lang Son Province.
Snow has covered forests in Lao Cai and Lang Son provinces.
However, Tang said this cold spell should be much shorter than the one that hit the north for 38 days in late 2008, when temperatures dipped to -2 in Sa Pa and 6 in Hanoi.
"There is a high likelihood that temperatures will increase gradually after January 19 and the cold spell will end within 20 days," he said.
The cold spell has disrupted the normal lives of many northerners.
In Hanoi, many primary schools and kindergartens have had to temporarily close.
On January 1, the city Education and Training Department instructed district agencies to take relevant steps to protect students from the inclement weather.
It said kindergartens and primary schools are allowed to close when temperatures fall below 10 degrees Celsius and that secondary schools may close in weather colder than 7 degrees.
The cold weather has sent more patients to hospitals to receive treatment for heart conditions and circulation diseases.
Bach Mai Hospital has reported a 20 percent increase in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
The National Children Hospital has been receiving between 2,200 and 2,500 children per day of late, mostly due to respiratory illnesses and diarrhea.