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Hanoi schools to be closed until April



Hanoi authorities are telling students to say home until early April as the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads in Vietnam.

In a meeting on Wednesday, chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Duc Chung stated that the epidemic is becoming more serious and may get intense over the next 15 days.

Chairman Chung decided to extend the existing school break through April 5 given the current situation.

He asked the municipal Department of Education and Training to work with the education ministry regarding the application of alternative teaching methods such as online lessons or educational television.

He also told local residents to refrain from going outside as much as possible.

The People’s Committee in Ho Chi Minh City previously stated that all K-12 students, as well as university and college students, in the southern metropolis will not return to school until at least April 5.

Students in Vietnam had been scheduled to return to school on February 3 following the Lunar New Year holiday, but the COVID-19 epidemic has caused repeated closures nationwide.

The novel coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, has infected over 218,700 people and killed more than 8,900 globally as of Thursday morning, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

Vietnam’s COVID-19 tally has soared to 76, with 16 having fully recovered and been discharged from the hospital by February 16. No death has been reported in the country so far.

Hanoi has 20 active COVID-19 patients while nine patients are currently being treated in Ho Chi Minh City.

Among the active cases, one patient in the northern province of Ninh Binh has recovered after testing negative for the novel coronavirus twice and is ready to be discharged from the hospital.

Four other cases in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Da Nang have also tested negative for the first time, according to local health departments.

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Ho Chi Minh City to pilot reopening classrooms on December 13



Ho Chi Minh City authorities have decided to reopen schools for students of grades 1, 9 and 12 on a trial basis from December 13, according to a decision issued by the municipal administration on Wednesday.

The trial school resumption comes after a closure since late May, a month after the fourth and deadliest wave of COVID-19 infections erupted in Vietnam.

The reopening of in-person classes for the three grades will last for two weeks, while five-year-old kids may come back to school on December 27, according to the decision.

Particularly for Can Gio District, Thanh An Kindergarten, Thanh An Elementary School, and Thanh An Middle and High School will resume physical learning for all grades from December 13.

On the first day of school reopening, the schools will not organize teaching but will instead examine students’ health, direct them to make health declarations, and train them in epidemic prevention measures, the city’s Department of Education and Training said.

The starting, ending, and break time for grades at a school will be staggered to comply with the requirement on safe distances among students, according to the department.

After the trial period, a conference will be held to review the plan’s outcomes, based on which the education department will coordinate with the Department of Health to advise the municipal government about whether physical classes can be resumed for other grades in part of or the entire city from January 3, 2022.

The reopening of elementary and high schools will depend on the epidemic level of each locality, according to an official of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and Training.

Accordingly, localities with epidemic levels 1, 2, and 3, or low, medium, and high risk of COVID-19 transmission, will be allowed to open schools providing that they meet all epidemic prevention requirements, the official said.

If any students or teachers or school staff have COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste or smell, they must stay at home, immediately inform the school management board, and go to a medical facility for examination and treatment, the department said.

Schools are required to hold meetings with parents for coordination measures, train teachers and other staff in COVID-19 prevention and control, and provide safety guidance for students.

From October 20, the city has piloted some face-to-face classes at the Thanh An elementary and middle schools in Can Gio District, which is considered as a low-risk area.

All educational institutions must complete epidemic prevention plans before December 3 and such plans must be approved by local steering committees for epidemic prevention and control before they can resume operations.

Reopening schools is a significant issue for a city of 1.7 million students like Ho Chi Minh City as many localities have become ‘green’ zones, or areas at low risk of COVID-19 infection, said chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Phan Van Mai.

Such reopening came amid the context that Ho Chi Minh City had basically completed full COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 12 to 17, with a population of 702,563, by the end of November, according to the Department of Health.

The city had also administered around eight million first vaccine doses and some 6.7 million second jabs to its adult population as of December 1, according to the national COVID-19 vaccination portal.  

However, the southern city remains the biggest COVID-19 epicenter in Vietnam, with 474,483 infections and over 18,000 deaths as of Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health.

City authorities reported 1,738 cases and 80 fatalities on Thursday. 

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Study Melbourne Hub opens in Ho Chi Minh City



The Australian-based Study Melbourne on Wednesday formally opened an educational center in Ho Chi Minh City, which is the fourth of its kind in the world, offering a vibrant and friendly space with opportunities to experience Melbourne.

Located in District 3, the Study Melbourne Hub Ho Chi Minh City spans an area of 320 square meters, providing a maximum capacity of 150 people.

The center has classrooms, meeting rooms, and equipment to support students in participating in online learning and in connecting with services and study programs of educational institutions from the Australian state of Victoria.

The inauguration of the Study Melbourne Hub Ho Chi Minh City added a fourth center of its kind to the global network of the educational space, after the ones in China and Malaysia, as well as a virtual version in India, according to the Study Melbourne website.

Speaking at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, Commissioner for Victoria to Southeast Asia Rebecca Hall said that some 120,000 international students, including about 6,400 Vietnamese, are now studying at Victoria’s educational establishments. 

Many of them, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, have to take online courses from home, she added.

Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy director of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s southern department, said education and science-technology are key cooperation areas in the Vietnam – Australia strategic partnership, as confirmed by the prime ministers and ministers of the two countries during their phone calls and conferences taking place in 2021, the Vietnam News Agency reported. 

The nations shared long-standing collaboration in these sectors, with Victoria-based universities and research institutes making a significant contribution to consolidating and expanding the ties.

The operation of the new hub will help Vietnamese students attending courses hosted by Victorian and Australian education providers better their study and improve their capacity, Cuong said.

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Ho Chi Minh City university establishes research center for infectious diseases



Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City (VNUHCM) has recently granted its affiliate International University the authorization to establish and operate a Research Center for Infectious Diseases (RCID), which will receive US$8 million in investment in five years, on the university campus.

International University will be responsible for the development and operation of RCID, with the long-term goal of conducting in-depth research and publishing globally high-ranking journals that specialize in infectious diseases in humans and animals, Dr. Vu Hai Quan, VNUHCM director, said at a conference on Saturday.

“Amidst the enormous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on various sectors of Vietnam’s economy and society, we are fully aware of our responsibility in launching more practical research to ensure public health and promote the nation’s welfare,” Quan emphasized.

In 2021-30, the newly-founded center will turn into a research unit that covers research on infectious diseases in humans and animals in Southeast Asia, with the participation of more than 60 well-trained professors and researchers.

RCID will be developed from the research base available at the International University campus, covering a total area of 540 hectares and being equipped with clean rooms for pilot plants and farming and modern laboratories that meet biosafety guidelines for scientific research.

Dr. Quan said that RCID will apply global advanced technologies to better respond to epidemics and introduce practical products such as a data management system on common infectious diseases, onsite rapid test kits and vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and pharmaceutical drugs.

“The center would play an important role as a tech hub where start-ups and technology companies come for technology transfers and collaboration on pilot production projects,” he added.

The center is meant to deliver training for both onsite researchers and those working overseas, raising their awareness and helping them better understand infectious diseases.

Dr. Tran Tien Khoa, rector of International University, stated at the meeting that RCID will attract multi-field cooperation, foreign direct investment, and domestic capital.

“This center is the first in Vietnam to lay the groundwork for in-depth learning about infectious diseases,” Dr. Khoa remarked.

“In coordination with educational institutions, healthcare centers, businesses, and start-ups, the hub will bring up technological solutions, improve researchers’ quality, and fully prepare for the ever-changing epidemic.”

VNUHCM estimates it will spend a total of VND145 billion ($6.4 million), alongside VND37 billion ($1.6 million) from International University, in investments in the center by 2026.

VNUHCM is one of the largest educational institutions in Vietnam with 38 units and seven member universities, according to its website.

It has recently made the 179th position in the QS Asia University Rankings (QS AUR), a prestigious ranking among top universities on the continent.

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