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A bridge over troubled water

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A street vendor sells papaya fruits to a customer in Hà Nội. Informal workers are among those seriously economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. VNA/ Photo Minh Sơn

By André GamaSocial Protection Programme Manager, ILO Viet Nam

All across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about not only a global health crisis, but also an economic one. As governments act to control the pandemic, many of their efforts end up negatively affecting economic activities. Thus, governments have been forced compliment their efforts to protect public health with measures that support the livelihoods of their citizens.

In Việt Nam, like in many other countries in the region, the significant share of informal workers in the labour force (71 per cent, including agricultural workers) presents a significant challenge in the design and implementation of COVID-19 support packages. In particular, as many workers are not registered in any database, programmes targeting specific groups of workers can be become a complex, expensive and time-consuming to implement.

This is one of the reasons why the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations have been in favour of universal approaches when it comes to COVID-19 relief measures. Universal programmes do come with their own set of risks of course. In particular, they are more costly than most targeted approaches. Therefore, it is important we also consider potential middle ground between universal programmes and more narrowly targeted programmes. For instance, COVID-19 support packages can target groups of the population particularly affected by the pandemic (specific provinces or particular economic sectors, for instance), and then be applied to the whole population within those groups. However, it is important to bear in mind that, in a world of ever-increasing economic integration, economic downturns can quickly trickle down from one sector or region to another.

While we navigate these troubled waters brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we stand strong by the principles of solidarity our societies were built upon. Doing so, we should always prefer the risk of providing help to those who might not need it, to the risk of not providing help to those who desperately need it.

Resolution No 68-NQ/CP takes important steps towards expanding the coverage and effectiveness of Government relief packages in Việt Nam by including new categories of workers to the beneficiaries of government support, and lowering the administrative burden imposed to beneficiaries. We must now wait for its implementation to assess its success.

The ILO believes that the Government is moving in the right direction when it comes to its COVID-19 economic support packages, and congratulates the Government of Việt Nam in starting the deployment of the package even when the current COVID-19 wave continues to present worrying patterns of evolution.

It is important we remember that navigating such troubled waters can also present important opportunities. Many governments across the world are currently opening windows of registration for informal workers to join social insurance, providing them with contribution exemptions and access to specific COVID-19 support programmes. Such an initiative in Việt Nam could become an important compliment to the ongoing efforts to reach the social insurance coverage targets set out by Resolution No 28-NQ/TW in 2018, which focuses on reforming social insurance policy towards the goal of universal social insurance.

Furthermore, in the current policy context, where the Government is debating the revision of the Social Insurance Law, Việt Nam should take this opportunity to reflect on how its social protection system can be strengthened, in order to enable it to better cope with the challenges of tomorrow. In particular, making social protection systems more shock responsive could go a long way in guaranteeing that, in future crisis, the Government does not face some of the challenges it faces today when it comes to providing support to those most affected by those crisis.

At the end of the day, there will always be a trade-off between the fairness of support provided, the speed of implementation, and the fiscal space needed for each different COVID-19 support package.

It is up to the Government to help steer the country through such stormy times, discussing and deciding where the optimal balance lies between these different dimensions, bearing in mind the positive effects that cash-transfer support to workers can have in the economy in the short-run, as shown over and over again across the world.

The ILO remains open and ready to support the Government of Việt Nam in any way necessary to mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We urge the people of Việt Nam to look at economic packages such as that put forth by Resolution No 68-NQ/CP not as a cost, but as an investment. As a bridge over troubled water, which will help stabilising the economy, keeping families away from poverty, and helping the country bounce back faster and better from this COVID-19 storm.

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/989798/a-bridge-over-troubled-water.html

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Dong Nai allows resumption of 145 taxis to transport patients to hospitals

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A street is under lockdown in Dong Nai. Dong Nai Province has allowed 145 taxis to resume operations to transport patients to hospitals during the shelter-in-place period – PHOTO: VNA

HCMC – Dong Nai Province has allowed 145 taxis to resume operations to transport patients to hospitals during the shelter-in-place period, while permitting shippers to return to work from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. each day.

The 145 taxis, which belong to the Mai Linh, Saigon, Lado and Long Thanh taxi operators, will also be used for essential cases, mainly medical purposes, including transporting people from/to quarantine centers, the Dong Nai Department of Transport said on August 5.

The provincial department granted QR identification codes to the taxis to make it easier for anti-virus forces to check and control the operation of these vehicles.

During their operations, these taxis must comply with Covid-19 safety protocols and make hand sanitizers and face masks available, while the drivers must have a negative Covid-19 test certificate and make online heath declarations before work.

Earlier, the Dong Nai Department of Industry and Trade allowed delivery workers, or shippers, to return to work in the daytime, the local media reported.

These shippers were told to have identifying characteristics such as a uniform, boxes, a business logo or a travel permit. Each delivery man is allowed to work at only one commune, ward or district.

The provincial government on July 31 decided to continue adopting the social distancing order under the prime minister’s Directive 16 for 15 more days from August 2 until 15 and imposed night movement restrictions.

Source: https://english.thesaigontimes.vn/83567/dong-nai-allows-resumption-of-145-taxis-to-transport-patients-to-hospitals.html

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Girl falls to death at apartment building in Hanoi

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A 12-year-old girl died after falling from the 12th floor to the third floor of an apartment building in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi on Tuesday night.

The incident occurred at the HH4C building in Linh Dam apartment complex in Hoang Mai District at around 10:00 pm on the same day.

Residents of the building heard a loud bang at that time and ran outdoors to check.

At the skylight area on the third floor, they saw a girl lying immobile.

The victim died on the spot, according to local authorities.

She was later verified to live in a flat on the 12th floor of the apartment building, a representative of its management board told Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper on Wednesday morning.

The girl was determined to have fallen from the window ventilator of her flat to the skylight.

“The girl’s parents had separated,” the management board’s representative said.

“During their investigation, the authorities discovered a suicide note allegedly written by the girl.”

Hoang Mai District police are investigating to clarify the cause of the incident.

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210804/girl-falls-to-death-at-apartment-building-in-hanoi/62418.html

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Health ministry told Nanogen to submit human trials data to health ministry before August 15 for reviews

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The health ministry on Monday asks HCM City-based biopharmaceutical company Nanogen, developer of the Vietnamese COVID-19 vaccine Nano Covax, to submit results of phase 2 and initial phase 3 trials to be reviewed for emergency approval.

Health ministry told Nanogen to submit human trials data to health ministry before August 15 for reviews
Deputy Health Minister Tran Van Thuan (middle) inspects a vial of Nano Covax, the frontrunner of the Vietnamese COVID-19 vaccine. — Photo from the Ministry of Health

Deputy Health Minister Tran Van Thuan, leader of the ministry’s special task force on clinical trials and development of COVID-19 vaccines, made the request during a progress meeting with experts, as the country deals with a severe fourth wave of infections while vaccine supply is still limited amid a global shortage.

The meeting included leaders of the Department of Science and Technology-Training (under the health ministry), the Military Medical Academy, the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, and the Pasteur Institute in HCM City and was held to review the current progress and find ways to facilitate the clinical trials and push for reports on data of phase 1, 2, 3 (a, b) of the Nano Covax vaccine. 

Phase 3 trials are being conducted with 13,000 volunteers, divided into two phases, 3a with 1,000 people and 3b with 12,000 people.

13,000 first doses in phase 3 have been administered, with the second dose expected to be completed before mid-August, according to the company.

Surrogate virus neutralisation tests (sVNT) for the 1,000 people involved in phase 3a, revealed 100 per cent production of neutralising antibodies at levels higher than 30 per cent, but further monitoring is needed.

In tandem with applying for conditional approval for emergency use, Nanogen is also requesting the health ministry to consider phase 3c trials, which would involve 500,000 to 1 million volunteers. Trials of the vaccine on children 12-18 years old would be conducted once the full approval is obtained.

Deputy Minister Thuan said the ministry is anticipating the domestically researched and manufactured COVID-19 vaccine will help protect the health and lives of the Vietnamese people, be more proactive in vaccine rollout and reduce dependency on foreign vaccine imports.

“The good news is the [Nano Covax] vaccine seems to be safe and can elicit high level of [SARS-CoV-2] neutralising antibodies,” he said. “But we have not yet had enough data on the protective properties of the vaccine, more time and more study is needed.”

The Ministry of Health has always supported and created the most favourable conditions for companies and individuals to participate in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, having mobilised many industry-leading scientists in the country’s to participate in the assessment of vaccines.

The health official wants Nanogen to submit a report on research results for phase 2 and initial phase 3, so that the National Ethics Committee in Biomedical Research could start evaluation for emergency approval for Nano Covax.

Source: Vietnam News

Source: https://vietnamnet.vn/en/society/health-ministry-told-nanogen-to-submit-human-trials-data-to-health-ministry-before-august-15-for-reviews-762312.html

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