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.
Most Ho Chi Minh City parents won’t let elementary kids return to schools amid pandemic: survey
Seventy percent of parents of first graders in Ho Chi Minh City would not let their children switch from current virtual classes to physical learning next week as planned by local authorities, according to a recent survey.
Almost 30 percent of parents of first graders said yes to the city’s plan to reopen in-person classes for their kids on December 13 amid surging COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, said the survey conducted by the municipal Department of Education and Training at 565 elementary schools in the city.
Among 121,759 parents of first graders, or 92.8 percent of the total number of parents of this grade, taking part in the survey, only 36,316 gave a nod to the scheme while the rest expressed their disagreement.
First graders, who have not yet been vaccinated against the coronavirus, can get infected with the disease outside the home and then transmit the pathogen to other members in their families, especially those with underlying health conditions, parents who are against this plan explained.
Such students at their ages can be at risk of infection as they cannot have full awareness of epidemic prevention like adults, they added.
They also said they need time to further observe the pandemic’s developments before allowing their kids to shift from ongoing online classes to face-to-face learning.
According to the scheme, which was unveiled on December 1, all first, sixth, and 12th graders will be allowed to attend offline classes again after a closure since late May, a month after the fourth and deadliest wave of COVID-19 infections erupted in Vietnam.
Overwhelmingly high rates of opposition to the plan have been recorded in many elementary schools in the inner city, such as Tran Quang Dieu, Tran Van Dang and Dien Bien, among others.
No respondents at two private elementary schools, one in District 3 and the other in District 6, threw their support behind the plan.
Even at schools located in localities with effective control of COVID-19 such as Cu Chi and Can Gio Districts, most parents disagreed with sending their first-grade kids back to school in the current context.
The management boards of many elementary schools said they are facing difficulties in the implementation of the plan due to such objection from parents.
Besides reorganizing face-to-face classes, schools said they would have to arrange teachers for virtual classes for students whose parents have yet to agree to send their kids to the physical classroom again.
Over the weekend, many schools held meetings with parents to prepare for the offline learning program.
During the first week of in-person learning, some schools will conduct three sessions only, while English lessons will still be taught online as at present.
Such school 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 over 702,563, by the end of November, according to the city’s Department of Health.
The city of nine million people had also administered around 8.02 million first vaccine doses and some 6.79 million second jabs to its adult population by December 5, according to the national COVID-19 vaccination portal.
However, the southern city remains the biggest COVID-19 epicenter in Vietnam, with 478,923 infections and over 18,000 deaths as of Sunday, according to the Ministry of Health.
City health authorities reported 1,491 cases and 69 fatalities on Sunday.
Hanoi to resume in-person classes for more students next week
The Hanoi People’s Committee on Thursday approved a proposal by the local education department to let tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders resume offline learning on December 6, given larger vaccine coverage and the central government’s policy of living safely with COVID-19.
The tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students will join ninth graders in Hanoi’s Ba Vi District and 17 suburban districts and towns that resumed offline lessons on November 9 and 22, respectively.
Meanwhile, pupils from first to eighth grades will stick to online classes and kindergarteners will remain home.
The students must only attend either morning or afternoon classes each day, while schools must not offer meals and close their canteens as part of the requirements by the municipal People’s Committee for COVID-19 prevention and control.
The students are also advised to bring their own water to face-to-face classrooms.
School management boards must arrange teachers who have been fully vaccinated for in-person lessons while letting the remaining teachers take charge of online classes only.
Schools with students living in high-risk areas should consider combining both offline and online learning modes.
In the remaining 12 districts, all elementary and middle school students will continue remote learning while schooling activities for kindergarteners will remain suspended.
Authorities in Hanoi have required all students to stay home and switch to remote learning since May 4 amid a serious COVID-19 outbreak.
Hanoi has documented more than 11,400 COVID-19 infections since the fourth virus wave hit Vietnam on April 27.
The capital logged 367, 467, and 499 cases on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, respectively.
Thursday also saw the city’s highest daily count since the beginning of the fourth wave.
Over 6.6 million out of eight million people of the city have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, with more than 5.5 million of them fully vaccinated, according to the national COVID-19 vaccination portal.
Local authorities plan to vaccinate over 95 percent of local children aged 12 to 17 from the remaining months of this year to the end of the first quarter of 2022, with those from 16 to 17 years old getting the shots first.
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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