News & Articles

Việt Nam Notes – Compiled by Chuck Searcy (Sunday, 26 July 2020)

The virus returns:  after 99 days of no new cases in Viet Nam, one patient in Da Nang has tested positive for SARS-COV-2; virus also returns to Laos

After 100 days of Viet Nam’s strict management of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in remarkable success in limiting cases to only a few airport arrivals who have been tested and immediately quarantined or hospitalized, Vietnamese citizens are facing the reality everyone has dreaded:  the virus is back.

Government leadership and health officials have been briefed on the latest development, a 57-year-old man in Da Nang who this week has tested positive three times. Health officials began immediately to investigate the origins of the infection, while taking all necessary steps to identify the extent of contamination and to protect anyone who may have been exposed.

The man had not been outside of Da Nang, and has rarely left his neighborhood.  However, he had visited his ailing mother at Da Nang Hospital C, and had also attended a wedding party despite having a mild fever and cough.  Authorities have moved quickly to identify and isolate all contacts, placing in quarantine more than 50 people who had been in contact with the man, and locking down Da Nang Hospital C.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc emphasized to citizens the importance of a “spirit of utmost calm” in preventing the disease from spreading in the community. Phuc said decisions should be “methodical, direct, drastic, and timely given the number of necessary decisions to be made in the coming time,” especially in the city of Da Nang and the Central region as well as other major cities.  The PM noted that a high level Ministry of Health delegation was immediately sent to direct the investigation, surveillance, treatment and prevention of epidemics in Da Nang. A special task force of leading epidemiologists and infection control teams will follow, to help localize and handle any outbreaks. Emergency and treatment specialists from Cho Ray Hospital, which has handled many COVID-19 cases, will also coordinate consultation and treatment of patients remotely. [MORE]

In Laos, the Malaysia Sun reports that a 32-year-old South Korean national, an expert working on a dam project, tested positive Thursday evening.  He had flown from Japan to Laos’s Vientiane International Airport via South Korea and was in his fifth day of quarantine at the Mekong Riverside hotel in Vientiane. He was part of a team of four other South Korean experts who were also under mandatory 14-day quarantine in the same hotel.  Phouthone Muangpak, deputy health minister for Laos, said the man had tested negative prior to entering the country.  “In Vientiane, we checked him again to make sure. It must have been that the virus had not yet matured enough to show up in his snot and saliva. That is why it wasn’t detected,” he said.  Since the man tested positive, the other 109 passengers who entered the country on the same flight have been sent to several different quarantine areas. [MORE]

Prevention and border controls in Viet Nam continue to be tightened.

Before the single case surfaced in Da Nang, on Tuesday this week Vietnam had recorded 12 more positive cases of SARS-CoV-2 among Vietnamese returning from abroad, who were quarantined upon entry.  The Ministry of Health warned that with more than 14.8 million cases worldwide, “we must continue to tighten the management of borders and prevent the epidemic from spreading in the community.”  MOH noted that the health sector had undertaken major preparations – human resources, medicines, and medical equipment – to receive more than 200 Vietnamese workers arriving from Equatorial Guinea. MOH continues to inform the Vietnamese public at least daily of developments in the Covid situation. [MORE]

More than 300 nationals fly home from Chinese Taipei, bringing total repatriated Vietnamese citizens to 14,143 since April 10th.

Seven Russian petroleum specialists are isolated

Seven airline passengers of Russian nationality entered Tan Son Nhat airport this week and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.  The men, ages 42 to 55 years old, are petroleum specialists. After first testing negative, then positive in a second test at the Pasteur Institute, the seven patients have been isolated and are being treated at Ba Ria Hospital.  The Ministry of Health says there is no risk of spreading to the community. [SOURCE MOH]

Research and development of COVID-19 vaccine supply in Viet Nam shows positive results; clinical trials may come this year

Acting Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long told a seminar of researchers this week that without a vaccine, it will be difficult to resume a normal life as before.  Four domestic manufacturers (VABIOTECH, POLYVAC, IVAC, NANOGEN) are in the process of researching and developing the COVID-19 vaccine, and initially they are showing positive results. One of the companies, IVAC, is using embryonic chicken egg culture technology. IVAC has produced influenza vaccine, and is now applying this technology to produce COVID-19 vaccine.  “We think this approach is positive and will soon bring this vaccine to clinical trials by the end of this year,” the Acting Minister of Health said.  [MORE] To date, 23 types of vaccines across the globe have been tested for phase 3, and some vaccines have been evaluated with good results. [MORE]

Hong Kong stares into Covid-19 abyss and has only itself to blame.  Lessons for Viet Nam.

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure,” is how Yonden Lhatoo laments the rollback in the city’s exemplary success against the coronavirus which has left it battling a resurgent crisis that threatens to overwhelm the public health care system.  Lhatoo, Chief News Editor at the South China Morning Post, had worked as a television news anchor and editor in Hong Kong for nearly two decades when he joined the SCMP in 2015.  He’s not a newcomer.  Lhatoo says if Hong Kong cannot contain a resurgence of Covid-19 infections, the so-called third wave and the most alarming so far, it has the potential to overwhelm the city’s health care system.  “To think that just weeks ago this city was the envy of the world for its exemplary efficiency in handling the coronavirus crisis and its remarkable success in putting a lid on the scourge of our times,” Lhatoo writes.  “Not any more. Now we are staring into the abyss again. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.”

There’s a good lesson here, which the Vietnamese government, thankfully, seems to have taken earnestly to heart.  They are responding immediately, calmly, and professionally to the new case of COVID just uncovered in Da Nang.  And they remain vigilant in protecting the borders and quarantining immediately anyone who enters the country, with hospitalization and careful monitoring for anyone who tests positive.

Sadly, it appears to be too late for the U.S. to mount such reasonable safeguards and restrictions to effectively end the pandemic, as new cases and the death toll continue to rise at alarming levels. [MORE]

Trump Is donating ventilators to countries that can’t use them or don’t need them, including Viet Nam

Nearly 8,000 ventilators are destined for foreign countries as part of Trump’s plan to make the U.S. “king of ventilators.” But public health experts worry the machines are crowding out more urgently needed aid.  Yeganeh Torbati reports in ProPublica that as President Donald Trump came under criticism for his administration’s failure to manage the coronavirus pandemic, Trump cited one area of success: his plan to donate thousands of ventilators to other countries.  “Now we’re the king of ventilators,” Trump told reporters on April 18.  But the effort has been marked by dysfunction, with little clarity on how countries are chosen or how the ventilators are allocated.  White House officials have pushed the U.S. Agency for International Development to purchase thousands of the expensive devices from U.S. companies and donate them abroad, according to internal documents.  Some equipment has been donated to wealthy nations that typically do not get foreign aid, such as NATO countries, and to a few locations ill-equipped to use devices that require round-the-clock staffing and regular maintenance. [MORE]

Ventilators and other donations from the U.S. Agency for Inter-national Development outside Moscow. The White House has pushed the agency to spend millions on donating ventilators, with little clarity on how countries are chosen. (Pavel Golovkin/pool/AFP via Getty Images)  

The 1918 flu campaigns shamed Americans into following new rules

Many of the methods Americans used in 1918 to try to prevent the spread of the flu are similar to what people began doing during the COVID-19 pandemic: Close schools. Wear masks. Don’t cough or sneeze in someone’s face. Avoid large events and hold them outside when possible. And no spitting.  Becky Little, writing in, cited Philadelphia streetcar signs that warned “Spit Spreads Death.” In New York City, officials enforced no-spitting ordinances and encouraged residents to cough or sneeze into handkerchiefs (a practice that caught on after the pandemic). In western states, some cities adopted mask ordinances, and officials argued wearing one was a patriotic duty. [MORE]

Israel pulls plug on God TV, evangelical channel ‘spreading Gospel of Jesus’ to Jews

The online edition of the Haaretz Newspaper in Israel reports that Israeli regulatory authorities are shutting down an evangelical Christian television station for not disclosing in its license application that its true agenda was missionizing Jews.  The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council notified Hot, the Israeli cable television provider that its new Hebrew-language channel would be taken off the air.  Shelanu, a new channel set up by God TV – one of the largest Christian broadcasting networks in the world – in partnership with the Israeli Messianic community, had been broadcasting on cable television since the end of April. It is very rare for the council to take a channel off the air, and it is the first time a Christian channel broadcast in Israel is being shut down.  [MORE]

Marian devotees commit to evangelization in Vietnam

Hundreds of Catholics from a laity association in Vietnam’s central provinces focused on their sanctification and bringing God’s word to followers of other faiths at their recent gathering according to the UCA News reporter.  Some 400 members of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception Association celebrated the 15th anniversary of the laity association’s establishment at the headquarters of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception congregation on July 18.  They also marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the indigenous women’s congregation.  Participants donning blue T-shirts and crosses were from Da Nang city and the provinces of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue. Father Dominic Phan Hung, who serves as the association’s spiritual director, said the celebration was an opportunity to encourage members to follow Mother Mary’s virtues — faith, hope, charity, wisdom, bravery, fairness, temperance, obedience, chastity, humility and meekness — to lead a life of sanctity. They should use apostolates to build happy families and bring the Christian faith to others, he said.  [MORE]

Members of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception Association at a ceremony to mark the association’s 15th anniversary on July 18 in Hue city. (Photo: UCA News) 

Despite danger of COVID-19, the U.S. military continues war practices in Europe and the Pacific

Retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright, a tireless advocate for peace and justice after her career in the military followed by distinguished service as a U.S. diplomat, in this article points to the staggering imbalance in our strategic priorities and our actions in the international arena.  Noting that during the COVID-19 pandemic, “not only will the U.S. military have the largest maritime military maneuvers in the world, with Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) coming to the waters off Hawaii August 17-31, 2020 bringing 26 nations, 25,000 military personnel, up to 50 ships and submarines and hundreds of aircraft in the midst of a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, but the U.S. Army [scheduled] a 6,000 person war game in June 2020 in Poland.” Wright notes that the State of Hawaii has the most stringent measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all persons arriving in Hawaii – returning residents as well as visitors. This quarantine is in place at least through July 31, 2020. If these weren’t too many military operations during an epidemic in which personnel on 40 U.S. Navy ships have come down with the hyper-contagious COVID-19 and military personnel and their families have been told not to travel, plans are underway for a U.S. Army division-sized exercise in the Indo-Pacific region in less than a year – in 2021. Known as Defender 2021, the U.S. Army has requested $364 million to conduct the war exercises throughout Asian and Pacific countries. [MORE] 

Charlottesville, Va. bans militarized policing

By unanimous vote, the City Council of Charlottesville, Va., on Monday evening voted to ban militarized policing. Specifically, the City Council resolved that “the Charlottesville Police Department shall not acquire weaponry from the United States armed forces,” and “shall not receive military-style or ‘warrior’ training by the United States armed forces, a foreign military or police, or any private company.” The measure was the result of a petition drafted by David Swanson which gathered more than 1,000 signatures.    [MORE]

Why the fuss over Olympic sports at Vietnam SEA Games?

Over the past week some bickering has arisen concerning which sports will be included in the 2021 SEA Games (South East Asia) which will be hosted by Viet Nam.  Some sports associations and media – mainly Malaysian – have criticised Viet Nam for including some Olympic sports and leaving out many which could cost Malaysia in the chase for medals.  This article from the Malay Mail examines the 36 sports, involving 450 events, that will be held at the Vietnam Games in Hanoi from November 21 to December 2 next year (depending on what happens with the COVID-19 pandemic, I suppose).  Olympic sports on Viet Nam’s official list include aquatics, archery, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoe, cycling, fencing, many others.  Non-Olympic sports include billiards and snooker, chess/xiangqi (Chinese chess), Muay Thai, pencak silat, petanque, sepak takraw, finswimming, and bodybuilding.  Excluded by Viet Nam are netball, indoor hockey, lawn bowls, sailing, tenpin bowling water skiing, and others at which Malaysia excels.  The Malay Mail says it is very common for host countries to chose sports at which they are strong.  Previous hosts the Philippines, Malaysia and Myanmar are no exception. [MORE]

‘Why I’m Moving to the Country My Parents Fled Decades Ago’

Travel writer Dan Q. Dao, who has traveled the world, says he has barely seen or experienced Vietnam outsides his parents’ lens.  Now he is planning to move to Viet Nam.  “At a moment of great uncertainty in the world, I’m radically hopeful about this generation of Vietnamese youth – the millennials and Gen Z-ers petitioning to stop the construction of harmful cable cars in Vietnam’s cave systems, the ones producing uniquely Vietnamese art and music and fashion, the ones standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and using social media to question Vietnam’s treatment of its own indigenous minorities. I’m hopeful thanks to the growing number of Vietnamese Americans who’ve returned, shedding the animosity our parents could not and working alongside our Vietnamese brothers and sisters to set a new trajectory for a global Vietnamese community.  [MORE]

Trump’s Mask

Peter Steiner cartoon