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Coronavirus: India’s race to build a low-cost ventilator to save Covid-19 patients

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A group of young engineers are racing against time to develop a $650 ventilator for Covid-19 patients.

In an 8,000 sq ft (743 sq m) facility in the western Indian city of Pune, a bunch of young engineers are racing against time to develop a low-cost ventilator that could save thousands of lives if the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the country’s hospitals.

These engineers – from some of India’s top engineering schools – belong to a barely two-year-old start-up which makes water-less robots that clean solar plants.

Last year, Nocca Robotics had a modest turnover of 2.7 million rupees ($36,000; £29,000). The average age of the mechanical, electronic and aerospace engineers who work for the firm is 26.

India, by most estimates, only has 48,000 ventilators. Nobody quite knows how many of these breathing assistance machines are working. But it is a fair assumption that all those available are being used in intensive care units on existing patients with other diseases.

About one in six people with Covid-19 gets seriously ill, which can include breathing difficulties. The country faces seeing its hospitals hobbled as others around the world have been, with doctors forced to choose who they try to save. 

At least two Indian companies make ventilators at present, mostly from imported components. They cost around 150,000 ($1,987; £1,612) rupees each. One of them, AgVa Healthcare, plans to make 20,000 in a month’s time. India has also ordered 10,000 from China, but that will meet just a fraction of the potential demand.

The invasive ventilator being developed by the engineers at Nocca Robotics will cost 50,000 rupees ($662). Within five days of beginning work, a group of seven engineers at the start-up have three prototypes of a portable machine ready.

They are being tested on artificial lungs, a prosthetic device that provides oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the blood. By 7 April, they plan to be ready with machines that can be tested on patients after approvals.

“It is most certainly doable,” said Dr Deepak Padmanabhan, a cardiologist at Bangalore’s Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, and a key advisor on this project. “The simulations on artificial lungs have been done and seem to work well.”

Inspiring story

The race to develop this inexpensive, home-grown invasive breathing machine is an inspiring story of swift coordination and speedy action involving public and private institutions, something not common in India.

“The pandemic has brought us all together in ways I could never imagine,” says Amitabha Bandyopadhyay, a professor of biological sciences and bioengineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, and a key mover of the project.

The young engineers mined open source medical supplies groups on the internet to find information on how to make the ventilators. After securing permissions, it took them exactly eight hours to produce the first prototype. Of particular use, say doctors, were some designs by engineers at MIT. With imports stalled, the engineers picked up pressure sensors – a key component of the machine that helps supply oxygen to lungs at a pressure that doesn’t cause injury – from those used in drones and available in the market.

Local authorities helped open firms that stock components – each machine needs 150 to 200 parts – and made sure that a bunch of engineers who had returned home to Nanded after the lockdown were still able to travel 400km (248 miles) back to Pune to work on the machine.

Some leading Indian industrialists, including a major medical device-making company, have offered their factories to manufacture the machines. The plan is to make 30,000 ventilators, at around 150-200 a day, by the middle of May.

Social media influencers joined the effort. Rahul Raj, a lithium battery-maker and an IIT alumnus, crowd-sourced a group called Caring Indians to “pool resources and experience” to cope with the pandemic. Within 24 hours, 1,000 people had signed up. “We tweeted to the local lawmaker and local police in Pune to help the developers, and made contacts with people who would be interested in the project,” Mr Raj said.

‘No-frills machine’

Expat Indian doctors and entrepreneurs who went to the same school – IIT is India’s leading engineering school and alumni include Google chief Sundar Pichai – held Zoom meetings with the young developers, advising them and asking questions about the machine’s development. The head of a US-based company gave them a 90-minute lecture on how to manage production. A former chief of an info-tech company told them how to source the components.

Lastly, a bunch of doctors vetted every development and asked hard questions. In the end, more than a dozen top professionals – pulmonologists, cardiologists, scientists, innovators, venture capitalists – have guided the young team.

Doctors say the goal is to develop a “no-frills” breathing machine tailored to Indian conditions.

Ventilators depend on pressurised oxygen supply from hospital plants. But in a country where piped oxygen is not available in many small towns and villages, developers are seeing whether they can also make the machine run on oxygen cylinders. “In a way we are trying to de-modernise the machine to what it was barely 20 years ago,” says Dr Padmanabhan.

“We are not experienced. But we are very good at making products easily. The robots that we make are much more complex to make. But this is a life-saving machine and carries risk, so we have to be very, very careful that we develop a perfect product which clears all approvals,” said Nikhil Kurele, the 26-year-old co-founder and chief executive officer of Nocca Robotics.

In just a week’s time, India will learn whether they pulled off the feat. BBC

Source: https://vietnamnet.vn/en/society/coronavirus-india-s-race-to-build-a-low-cost-ventilator-to-save-covid-19-patients-629884.html

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S.Korea tops list of foreign visitors to Vietnam in first month of 2023

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South Korea is the country accounting for the highest number of international visitors to Vietnam in the first month of this year, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

The number of international tourist arrivals in Vietnam in January 2023 amounted to more than 871,000, making an increase of 23.2 percent compared to December last year, the GSO reported recently.

Among the total, some 259,000 travelers were from South Korea, placing the Northeastern Asian country in the first position on the list of international arrivals to Vietnam last month.  

Ranking second was the U.S. with nearly 77,900 tourists and the third place went to Thailand with some 55,000 travelers.

The fourth and fifth positions belonged to Australia and Japan with about 44,000 and 34,000 visitors, respectively.

This image shows a member of the group of 120 South Korean tourists being offered flowers by a local receptionist when they arrived in Khanh Hoa Province, in south-central Vietnam, on January 1, 2023. Photo: Minh Chien / Tien Phong

This image shows a member of a group of 120 South Korean tourists getting flowers when they arrived in Khanh Hoa Province, south-central Vietnam, January 1, 2023. Photo: Minh Chien / Tien Phong

International travelers to Vietnam by air occupied the largest portion, at 91.9 percent, while those by road and by sea represented 7.5 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, the GSO said.

The figure of foreign arrivals to Vietnam in January 2023 rose 44.2 percent from a year earlier, but it fell 42 percent compared to the same period of 2019, when the COVID-19 pandemic had yet to hit the Southeast Asian country. 

Last month saw numbers of visitors to Vietnam from China and Russia, two of Vietnam’s major sources of tourists, reach nearly 47,000 and 12,000, respectively, far lower than over 660,000 and 36,000 in the same period in 2019, said the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

Total tourism revenue in January neared VND46 trillion (US$1.96 billion), lower than the expected monthly average of VND54 trillion ($2.3 billion) for 2023.

The tourism sector has set a goal of welcoming about eight million international visitors in 2023, equal to 45 percent of the 2019 target, the VNAT said.

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South Korea is the country accounting for the highest number of international visitors to Vietnam in the first month of this year, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

The number of international tourist arrivals in Vietnam in January 2023 amounted to more than 871,000, making an increase of 23.2 percent compared to December last year, the GSO reported recently.

Among the total, some 259,000 travelers were from South Korea, placing the Northeastern Asian country in the first position on the list of international arrivals to Vietnam last month.  

Ranking second was the U.S. with nearly 77,900 tourists and the third place went to Thailand with some 55,000 travelers.

The fourth and fifth positions belonged to Australia and Japan with about 44,000 and 34,000 visitors, respectively.

This image shows a member of the group of 120 South Korean tourists being offered flowers by a local receptionist when they arrived in Khanh Hoa Province, in south-central Vietnam, on January 1, 2023. Photo: Minh Chien / Tien Phong

This image shows a member of a group of 120 South Korean tourists getting flowers when they arrived in Khanh Hoa Province, south-central Vietnam, January 1, 2023. Photo: Minh Chien / Tien Phong

International travelers to Vietnam by air occupied the largest portion, at 91.9 percent, while those by road and by sea represented 7.5 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, the GSO said.

The figure of foreign arrivals to Vietnam in January 2023 rose 44.2 percent from a year earlier, but it fell 42 percent compared to the same period of 2019, when the COVID-19 pandemic had yet to hit the Southeast Asian country. 

Last month saw numbers of visitors to Vietnam from China and Russia, two of Vietnam’s major sources of tourists, reach nearly 47,000 and 12,000, respectively, far lower than over 660,000 and 36,000 in the same period in 2019, said the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

Total tourism revenue in January neared VND46 trillion (US$1.96 billion), lower than the expected monthly average of VND54 trillion ($2.3 billion) for 2023.

The tourism sector has set a goal of welcoming about eight million international visitors in 2023, equal to 45 percent of the 2019 target, the VNAT said.

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20230201/skorea-tops-list-of-foreign-visitors-to-vietnam-in-first-month-of-2023/71250.html

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Work starts on operation building for Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line

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The groundbreaking for the operation and management building of Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line was held on Tuesday.

Upon completion, the operation and management (O&M) building will be the headquarters for Ho Chi Minh City No.1 Urban Railway Company with the primary function of operating the entirety of metro line No. 1.

The facility is located at Long Binh depot in Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City.

The construction of the city’s first metro line is about 94 percent complete, Nguyen Quoc Hien, an official from the municipal Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR), the project developer, said at the ceremony.

The developer, contractor, and consulting team are working hard to complete the remaining categories and prepare for technical test operation of the metro route in 2023, Hien continued.

The groundbreaking of the operation and management building of Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line, January 31, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

The groundbreaking of the operation and management building of Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line, January 31, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

The O&M building covers an area of more than 1,500 square meters, has two stories, and has a lifespan of 100 years.

The construction is expected to last for nine months.

This year marks an important phase of the project as it will be the transition from the construction of the metro line to the official operation of the route in 2024, according to Hien.

Vice-chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Bui Xuan Cuong stated that 2022 marked many memorable milestones of metro line No. 1, especially the trial operation of the elevated section from Suoi Tien Terminal to Binh Thai Station.

Vice Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee Bui Xuan Cuong greets workers at the construction site, January 31, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

Vice-chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Bui Xuan Cuong greets workers at the construction site, January 31, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

The O&M building is a very important ‘piece’ for the whole project, Cuong stressed.

The official requested that relevant units ensure the progress of the project and put it into operation in 2024.

The city’s first metro line is 19.7 kilometers long, including 2.6 kilometers of underground railway and 17.1 kilometers of elevated track.

It runs from Ben Thanh Market in District 1 to Suoi Tien Theme Park in Thu Duc City through three underground stations and 11 stops above the ground.

The project broke ground in August 2012 at a cost of VND43,700 billion (US$1.86 billion), most of which comes from Japan’s official development assistance loans.

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The groundbreaking for the operation and management building of Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line was held on Tuesday.

Upon completion, the operation and management (O&M) building will be the headquarters for Ho Chi Minh City No.1 Urban Railway Company with the primary function of operating the entirety of metro line No. 1.

The facility is located at Long Binh depot in Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City.

The construction of the city’s first metro line is about 94 percent complete, Nguyen Quoc Hien, an official from the municipal Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR), the project developer, said at the ceremony.

The developer, contractor, and consulting team are working hard to complete the remaining categories and prepare for technical test operation of the metro route in 2023, Hien continued.

The groundbreaking of the operation and management building of Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line, January 31, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

The groundbreaking of the operation and management building of Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line, January 31, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

The O&M building covers an area of more than 1,500 square meters, has two stories, and has a lifespan of 100 years.

The construction is expected to last for nine months.

This year marks an important phase of the project as it will be the transition from the construction of the metro line to the official operation of the route in 2024, according to Hien.

Vice-chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Bui Xuan Cuong stated that 2022 marked many memorable milestones of metro line No. 1, especially the trial operation of the elevated section from Suoi Tien Terminal to Binh Thai Station.

Vice Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee Bui Xuan Cuong greets workers at the construction site, January 31, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

Vice-chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Bui Xuan Cuong greets workers at the construction site, January 31, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

The O&M building is a very important ‘piece’ for the whole project, Cuong stressed.

The official requested that relevant units ensure the progress of the project and put it into operation in 2024.

The city’s first metro line is 19.7 kilometers long, including 2.6 kilometers of underground railway and 17.1 kilometers of elevated track.

It runs from Ben Thanh Market in District 1 to Suoi Tien Theme Park in Thu Duc City through three underground stations and 11 stops above the ground.

The project broke ground in August 2012 at a cost of VND43,700 billion (US$1.86 billion), most of which comes from Japan’s official development assistance loans.

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20230201/work-starts-on-operation-building-for-ho-chi-minh-citys-first-metro-line/71248.html

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4 undersea Internet cables face problems, affecting Vietnam’s international connections

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Four out of the five submarine Internet cable systems connecting Vietnam to the world are facing problems, with the latest failure recorded on Saturday, seriously affecting users’ international connections, an Internet service provider (ISP) said.

The Intra Asia (IA) cable system encountered problems on January 28 when a cable breakage happened about 130 kilometers from a shoreline station in Singapore, leading to a total loss of international data from Vietnam to the city-state, the ISP said.

This system, with a total length of 6,800 kilometers, has been in operation since November 2009 to connect Internet users in Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, and Vietnam. 

It also served as an important route for Internet data transit to the Americas and Europe from users in Vietnam and other regional countries.

On January 21, the APG cable system faced an incident on its S9 branch connecting to Singapore, interrupting the connection between Vietnam and Singapore and Japan.

This line runs about 10,400 kilometers underwater across the Pacific Ocean, linking Vietnam with mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore.

Two other undersea cable routes, AAG and AAE-1, have had troubles since the end of 2022 and have not been fixed yet. 

In addition to these five lines, Vietnam is hooked up to two other submarine Internet cables, SJC2 and ADC, but they are not yet officially operational, Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper reported. 

The latest incident means that Vietnam currently has only one undersea cable line left, the SMW3, to link the country to the world.

However, this system is outdated and is about to be discarded, according to ISPs.

The failure of the four cable systems has seriously affected the speed of Vietnam’s international Internet connections.

ISPs said they have deployed routing solutions to overland cable lines, as well as implementing other contingency plans, to minimize the impacts on domestic users.

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Four out of the five submarine Internet cable systems connecting Vietnam to the world are facing problems, with the latest failure recorded on Saturday, seriously affecting users’ international connections, an Internet service provider (ISP) said.

The Intra Asia (IA) cable system encountered problems on January 28 when a cable breakage happened about 130 kilometers from a shoreline station in Singapore, leading to a total loss of international data from Vietnam to the city-state, the ISP said.

This system, with a total length of 6,800 kilometers, has been in operation since November 2009 to connect Internet users in Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, and Vietnam. 

It also served as an important route for Internet data transit to the Americas and Europe from users in Vietnam and other regional countries.

On January 21, the APG cable system faced an incident on its S9 branch connecting to Singapore, interrupting the connection between Vietnam and Singapore and Japan.

This line runs about 10,400 kilometers underwater across the Pacific Ocean, linking Vietnam with mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore.

Two other undersea cable routes, AAG and AAE-1, have had troubles since the end of 2022 and have not been fixed yet. 

In addition to these five lines, Vietnam is hooked up to two other submarine Internet cables, SJC2 and ADC, but they are not yet officially operational, Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper reported. 

The latest incident means that Vietnam currently has only one undersea cable line left, the SMW3, to link the country to the world.

However, this system is outdated and is about to be discarded, according to ISPs.

The failure of the four cable systems has seriously affected the speed of Vietnam’s international Internet connections.

ISPs said they have deployed routing solutions to overland cable lines, as well as implementing other contingency plans, to minimize the impacts on domestic users.

Like us on Facebook or  follow us on Twitter to get the latest news about Vietnam!

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20230131/4-undersea-internet-cables-face-problems-affecting-vietnams-international-connections/71241.html

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