Functional forces stationed at checkpoints at 12 entrances to Ho Chi Minh City no longer require commuters to present negative COVID-19 test certificates following Tien Phong (Youth) newspaper reports on the inefficiency of the requirement.
A leader from the municipal traffic police department announced the elimination of the requirement on Wednesday afternoon, adding that commuters now only need to submit medical declarations and show vaccination certificates.
Officers on duty at the 12 checkpoints will check health declarations via the VNEID app and certificates of COVID-19 vaccination with at least one dose no less than 14 days prior or proof of having recovered from the disease no more than 180 days before.
The decision followed a slew of complaints by commuters that they had been turned around by officers stationed at the Long Phuoc toll station on the Ho Chi Minh City – Long Thanh – Dau Giay Expressway, a major gateway to the southern metropolis, for not having a negative COVID-19 test certificate.
The motorists criticized the requirement as irrational, pointing out that the same requirement was not applicable to people leaving Ho Chi Minh City, evaluated as a medium-to-high risk locality, for low-risk provinces.
Several epidemiologists also stated their belief that the regulation seemed illogical and should be corrected immediately.
“How come it’s easier to go to low-risk areas from a high-risk area, but more difficult in the opposite direction,” said one epidemiologist.
“The requirement of showing a negative COVID-19 test certificate is unreasonable and should be removed immediately in order to avoid inconvenience and unnecessary procedures.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the virtual second session of Vietnam’s 15th National Assembly, Nguyen Sy Quang, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Public Security, said that the city’s traffic sector will monitor vehicles coming into and leaving the metropolis via a license plate recognition (LPR) camera system and random inspection so as to ensure both traffic safety and pandemic prevention in the near future.
Ho Chi Minh City has been the hardest-hit locality since the fourth outbreak began on April 27, with more than 420,000 local infections.
The city had imposed social distancing measures at various levels since May 31 before loosening multiple restrictions on October 1.
Vietnam’s Nha Trang dismantles 12 illegal villas
Twelve villas illegally built at the Ocean View Nha Trang project in Khanh Hoa Province, south-central Vietnam are currently undergoing demolition due to exceeding their designated number of floors.
Authorities in Nha Trang City, the capital of Khanh Hoa, began dismantling five out of the 12 villas in question earlier this month, using the city’s budget to cover the total cost of over VND9.7 billion (US$397,800), according to Nguyen Cong Danh, chairman of the People’s Committee of Vinh Truong Ward, where the property is located.
The Nha Trang administration expects to collect the fees from the villa owners later.
Owners who do not pay the fees will see their bank accounts frozen and their land plots unavailable for any transactions.
The owners of the remaining seven villas have pulled down their structures themselves.
|An overview of the Ocean View Nha Trang project in Khanh Hoa Province, south-central Vietnam. Photo: T.B. / Tien Phong|
Construction of Ocean View began in 2009, approximately three kilometers away from the center of Nha Trang.
Out of the 69 villas within the project, 15 breached regulations related to excessive floor count, incorrect planning, and construction density.
At the end of 2021, Nha Trang authorities instructed the project investor, Thien Nhan II Trading and Services Co. Ltd., to remove these unauthorized structures.
However, only three villas have been dismantled with insufficient funds cited as the reason for the delay in the demolition process.
|Workers dismantle a villa illegally built at the Ocean View Nha Trang project in Khanh Hoa Province, south-central Vietnam. Photo: T.B. / Tien Phong|
Authorities in Khanh Hoa declared that the removal of unlawful buildings will continue until the end of 2024.
During the implementation of the project, Nguyen Viet Hung, chairman and director at Thien Nhan II, engaged in fraudulent activities and misappropriated property belonging to 13 victims that totaled VND28.7 trillion ($1.17 billion).
In June 2023, Hung was convicted and sentenced to an 18-year prison term by the People’s Court of Khanh Hoa Province.
A friend to wild elephants in Vietnam
The old man took the camera supplied to him to capture photos of a herd of wild elephants. He confidently declared, “Although you’ve recorded eight wild elephants, I’m certain there are nine.”
The old man retrieved his camera and meticulously displayed a series of close-range photographs of the herd of wild elephants that had been wandering near his garden.
These photos, taken with remarkable clarity and vividness, allowed each elephant in the herd to be distinctly observed.
The herd of wild elephants in the jungle
Over time, 70-year-old farmer Nguyen Van Binh, a resident of Cam La Village in Que Lam Commune, Nong Son District, Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam has made a name for himself.
He has been invited to meet with experts specializing in elephant conservation and has been recruited by the species conservation and wild elephant habitat management board in Nong Son District to participate in patrols for the welfare of the wild elephant herds.
One day, a visiting delegation was welcomed into his home, which is situated in the buffer zone surrounding the area designated for species observation and wild elephant habitats in Nong Son.
Binh momentarily set aside the fishing net he was working on to engage with the visitors, providing them with a wealth of information about the wild elephants.
Despite his somewhat disorganized storytelling, wildlife experts recognized the value of the information he had collected about the appearance and behavior of the wild elephants he observed and photographed.
According to locals, before the establishment of the nature reserve for wild elephants in Nong Son District, sightings of the mammals in the area were commonplace.
In the past, the dense jungle teemed with elephants and various other animals, with their numbers rivaling those of the buffalo herds raised by the local populace.
|Nguyen Van Binh wields an alarm to protect his community from the encroachment of wild elephants in Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam. Photo: B.D. / Tien Phong|
However, in those days, the community focused solely on securing enough food for survival, with little thought given to wildlife conservation.
Due to human cultivation and development, the habitats of wild animals, including elephants, have significantly diminished, leading to conflicts between humans and wild elephants.
Binh, however, has encountered these confrontations with angry wild elephants on numerous occasions.
Despite being pursued by wild elephants for many years, he has never sought to drive them away or harm them.
Instead, he has become an active protector of these wild animals, tracking their movements to ensure their safety in the sanctuary zone.
Being deplaced because of wild elephants
In Binh’s recollection, his first exposure to the problems caused by wild elephants for local residents occurred when he was managing a community in the jungle.
In those times, before the sanctuary area existed, encountering wild elephants was a source of great fear for all residents.
While many attempted to drive the elephants away, even resorting to dangerous methods that caused harm, Binh did not follow suit.
When the government offered residents of the old jungle the opportunity to relocate to areas outside the forest, Binh and his wife moved to Sam Nua and established a new home there.
However, the relentless wild elephants ‘chased’ them once more.
Each time they rebuilt their house, the wild elephants later demolished it. Moreover, these elephants repeatedly destroyed the couple’s crops.
Unable to tolerate the destruction wrought by the mammals, Binh and his wife decided to move their home to another location, approximately 10 kilometers from their previous venue.
Binh showed your correspondents a worn notebook he referred to as his ‘perpetual calendar.’
Not every page contained notes; some were left blank, while others were filled with varied characters, with some of them even written over others.
“In July and August, the elephants often visit this area, so I noted their appearance on the sheets. On other days, I didn’t note anything because they were in different locations,” explained the old farmer.
Binh’s house is located near the Cam La Bridge. While their neighbors opted to relocate their homes to escape the wild elephants, Binh, now in his fourth home after years of evading elephant encounters, has transformed into a guardian and protector of these animals.
He led the reporters through the back of his four-level house, which bordered the fields, pomelo trees, and a vast expanse of acacia trees, leading to the heart of the wild elephant reserve.
|Nguyen Van Binh and his wife have encountered wild elephants numerous times, diligently documenting these encounters through photographs and detailed notes. Photo: B.D. / Tien Phong|
“It’s approximately two kilometers as the crow flies from here to the elephants’ position. I can accurately pinpoint their location and even identify each of them by their unique characteristics,” Binh chuckled.
Binh’s wife, Man, shared a humorous anecdote about the time her husband inadvertently fed dried straws to the elephants.
“Around 2:00 am, it was exceptionally cold, and the cows were famished,” she recounted.
“Binh and I ventured into the garden to feed them dried straws. As we were engrossed in this task, we suddenly heard snorts.
“When we looked up, we were startled to see two elephant heads, each larger than two enormous baskets, looming over us.
“Binh was quite shocked, but with his understanding of the animals’ behavior, he advised me to stand still and continue feeding them with dried straws.
“I held my breath and kept feeding, while the wild elephants continued to eat without attacking me.
“Eventually, they departed. Even now, thinking about it leaves me breathless.”
Binh works as a farmer and resides next to the forest, frequently encountering wild elephants. He also shepherd his 20 cows into the forest daily and has confronted the wild elephant herds on many occasions.
According to him, at first, the elephants would chase him upon seeing him, but he later learned to move in the opposite direction to avoid being pursued, as wild elephants do not attack people when they cannot detect their body odor or sweat.
In this manner, the old man has learned to coexist with the elephants and considers them his friends.
He can vividly recall each member of the elephant herd. A few years ago, his heart leaped with joy when he spotted a calf among the group.
Giving support to protect wild elephants
Mai Van Duong, director of the species conservation and wild elephant habitat management board in Nong Son District, jokingly referred to Binh not only as a farmer who raises cows but also as the ‘elephant herdsman.’
In 2017, acknowledging his extraordinary affection for a memory of wild elephants, the board presented him with a digital camera and provided instructions on its use.
Additionally, his family received tools to alert them to the presence of wild elephants. While attending to his daily duties as a herdsman for the family’s cows, Binh always keeps the digital camera in his pocket.
Over time, the old farmer has documented hundreds of pieces of information about elephant sightings, the herd’s status, and the number of individuals.
Alongside these records are photographs and notes taken by him during this process, which have become a valuable source of data for the mission to protect wild elephants.
According to Binh, despite the fact that the herd of elephants has repeatedly destroyed his homes and crops, he has never held any animosity toward them.
He believes that they are similar to humans in some ways.
In his view, the jungle once belonged to them in the past.
Nevertheless, due to rapid human growth and the resulting encroachment on their habitat, wild elephants have been compelled to struggle for survival, resulting in conflicts with humans.
Director Duong emphasized the crucial role of the local community in wildlife conservation efforts.
Thanks to Binh’s contributions, the community’s awareness of the value of wild elephants has been transformed, giving rise to the provision of a more natural habitat for these magnificent creatures.
Chaos on Hanoi roads amid non-stop downpours
Vital routes in the capital were 30-50 cm underwater on Thursday morning, after rains poured non-stop from Wednesday night.
Half of the Nguyen Trai Street section in front of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities of Vietnam National University is inundated, severely impeding traffic.
Meteorology institutions recorded rainfall of 105 mm from midnight to 6 a.m. in Hoang Mai District, the highest among all Hanoi districts. Ha Dong saw rain levels at 70 mm, while other districts like Thanh Xuan, Cau Giay, Ba Dinh and Nam Tu Liem all received more than 60 mm rainfall.
In the suburbs, My Duc District received 280 mm rains, and Ung Hoa 180 mm.
A clothes shop on Nguyen Trai Street has erected planks to block the water from entering the basement.
The roads leading towards downtown areas, like Quang Trung, Tran Phu and Nguyen Trai, were heavily congested with motorbikes, cars and public buses.
A woman tries to push her motorbike through a flooded section of Nguyen Trai Street.
All four lanes of Nguyen Xien Street are flooded. Vehicles are confined to one side of the road, where it is least flooded.
Several people abandoned their vehicles to seek shelter underneath the bridge on Nguyen Xien, waiting for the water to recede.
On Le Quang Dao Street, several road sections were half a meter underwater, stranding hundreds of cars amid the road.
“My truck’s engine died over an hour ago. The water has not receded much,” a truck driver said, adding that he has called for help, but still not knowing the exact time frame when the truck could be taken out of the flooded area.
On To Huu Street of Ha Dong District, several motorbikes had to be taken onto elevated areas near the bus stop to prevent their engines from shutting down.
The route from the Le Van Luong, To Huu underpass to the Luong The Vinh intersection did not suffer from severe flooding, but the traffic was jammed for four hours, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
A man tries to ride his motorbike through a severely flooded section of To Huu Street.
The plains and midlands of northern Vietnam, including Hoa Binh, Son La, Yen Bai, Lao Cai, Tuyen Quang and Thanh Hoa provinces, will see heavy rains on Thursday, with rainfall between 50-150 mm, according to the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.
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