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Looking back on one year fighting COVID-19 in Việt Nam



The otherwise busy Tạ Hiện Street in Hà Nội became quiet in March last year, when a nationwide lockdown order was imposed. — Photo

HÀ NỘI — Today marks the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in Việt Nam. On January 23, 2020, a man visiting from China tested positive for coronavirus. Since then all our lives have been turned upside down as the pandemic spread to all corners of the globe. But despite global upheaval, Việt Nam has been praised for the way it has handled this deadly plague.

As of January 22, the country has seen a total of 1,548 cases with just 35 proving fatal, while 1,411 have recovered. The country has undergone 52 days without a case of COVID-19 community transmission.

Viet Nam News takes a look back at the key events of the past 12 months since that very first case was recorded, and the tremendous efforts made by the authorities, medical staff and security forces, as well as the entire nation, to contain COVID-19.

January 23, 2020: The first case of COVID-19 is reported after a 66-year-old Chinese man came from Wuhan to Viet Nam to visit his son. He and his son were then treated at Chợ Rẫy Hospital, HCM City.

February 13, 2020: Sơn Lôi Commune, Bình Xuyên District in Vĩnh Phúc Province is locked down after six cases were discovered there.

Trúc Bạch Street, where patient 17 lives, is quarantined. — photo

March 6, 2020: Patient 17 tests positive for coronavirus after coming back from Europe, marking a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

March 18, 2020: Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc orders a halt to issuing new visas for foreigners to Việt Nam and limited flights from pandemic zones.

March 25, 2020: Việt Nam suspends all international flights to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Soldiers of the Army Chemicals and Military Medicine Department spray disinfectant to sterilise the area around Bạch Mai Hospital. — VNA/ Photo.

March 28, 2020: Bạch Mai hospital is locked down after many cases related to the hospital were reported. Bạch Mai hospital becomes the virus epicentre of Hà Nội.

April 1, 2020: A social distancing order is implemented nationwide.

April 12, 2020: Bạch Mai Hospital reopens after 14 days of quarantine.

April 23, 2020: The social distancing order is lifted in most areas of the country except for some high-risk zones.

British pilot Stephen Cameron recovers after being in a coma. — Photo courtesy of Chợ Rẫy Hospital

May 27, 2020: British pilot Stephen Cameron, Việt Nam’s sickest COVID-19 case, shows signs of recovery.

July 11, 2020: Pilot Stephen Cameron flies back to the UK.

July 25, 2020: The first COVID-19 case is reported in Đà Nẵng City.           

July 28, 2020: All of Đà Nẵng City is locked down.

August 4, 2020: Army disinfects Đà Nẵng City’s Sơn Trà District.

August 13, 2020: Domestic flights take stranded tourists back from Đà Nẵng.

A nurse holds the infant born to a mother with COVID-19. — Photo courtesy of National Hospital for Tropical Diseases

September 10, 2020: A baby is born to a mother with COVID-19.

September 11, 2020: Đà Nẵng loosens social distancing orders.

November 30, 2020: HCM City announces the first case of COVID-19 after 100 days.

December 10, 2020: Call for registration for human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine.

December 17, 2020: First dose of the vaccine is administered.

December 26, 2020: Vĩnh Long Province reports a man who entered Việt Nam illegally tests positive for COVID-19.

January 2, 2021: New highly more transmissible variant of coronavirus first reported in HCM City after a woman is repatriated from the UK.



Lockdown lifted in Chí Linh City and Cẩm Giàng District




The lockdown in Chí Linh City of the northern province of Hải Dương was lifted at midnight on March 3 as the locality successfully controlled the COVID-19 outbreaks. — VNA/ Photo Mạnh Minh

HẢI DƯƠNG — From midnight on March 3, the coronavirus lockdowns in Chí Linh City and Cẩm Giàng District in the northern province of Hải Dương were lifted and province-wide social distancing ended after 15 days.

On January 27, the first community COVID-19 case in Hải Dương Province’s Chí Linh City was detected – Patient 1,552 – a worker in close contact with a woman who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after arriving in Japan. 

According to the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, Chí Linh City was the largest outbreak in the country since the pandemic began early last year with 383 confirmed cases out of 684 cases reported in Hải Dương Province.

The outbreak started at a company with more than 2,300 workers and then spread to the community, which caused difficulties in controlling the infections.

As the outbreak was gradually controlled, Hải Dương Province authorities decided to end the lockdowns and province-wide social distancing, entering a “new normal” phase with twin tasks of drastically fighting the coronavirus and taking action for socio-economic development.

At the moments when lockdown barriers were removed at Sao Đỏ Square in Chí Linh City, local officials, people working on the frontlines and residents expressed excitement and happiness.

Vice head of Bến Tăm Ward’s Police Vũ Văn Tú said that he worked at Sao Đỏ Square’s COVID-19 checkpoint since January 27.

“As the city is no longer under lockdown, we are very happy because it proved that we beat COVID-19,” he said, adding that work and production could resume.

Doctor Nguyễn Thị Hằng from Chí Linh City Healthcare Centre’s Diseases Control Department said that like many people, she felt the lockdown-lifting moment was like New Year’s Eve when people usually think of a better beginning.

“For over 20 years working in the healthcare sector, the past month is the first time I worked under such high pressure. We usually skipped meals or ate during short breaks as many COVID-19 cases and their close contacts were reported,” Hằng said.

She added that her workload gradually fell over the last ten days.

Nguyễn Thành Nam, a resident in Chí Linh, said that after the lockdown, residents would still strictly follow preventive measures, avoid crowds and would try their best to contribute to the city and the whole province’s development.

Nam said that amid the pandemic, he understood and appreciated more about the care and support among people in Chí Linh, as well as of people across the country to those under lockdown.

Secretary of Hải Dương Province Party Committee Phạm Xuân Thăng applauded efforts made by authorities, health experts and people in fighting the pandemic, particularly contributions of people on the front lines.

Besides lifting the lockdown in Chí Linh City and Cẩm Giàng District and the end of province-wide social distancing, the Hải Dương Province People’s Committee on Tuesday decided to divide the localities in the province into two groups under different restrictions depending on the COVID-19 risks.

Until March 17, four high-risk localities, including Hải Dương City, Kinh Môn township, Cẩm Giàng District and Kim Thành, will be placed under the Government’s Directive 15, the highest level of social distancing first introduced in March last year when the country entered nationwide lockdown. The directive prescribes limiting large gatherings, meetings with over 20 people in-doors or 10 people outdoors, maintaining two metres distance between individuals in public places, non-essential services are shut down, public passenger transport is halted, and travel is heavily restricted.

The remaining eight localities in the province will follow the less restrictive Government’s Directive 19 on social distancing norms.

Hải Dương will continue to halt festivals, religious rituals, sporting events and other unimportant events that require large gatherings in public.

Associate Professor Trần Đắc Phu, former head of Health Ministry’s General Department of Preventive Medicine and now a senior consultant of the health ministry’s Public Health Emergency Operations Centre told that further testing and monitoring should be continued in high-risk areas to detect hidden outbreaks.

Social distancing measures should be implemented flexibly, for example, trade and production activities would be allowed if they could ensure the ability to trace new cases and conduct tests if needed, Phu said.

“It is necessary for Hải Dương Province to detect a possible risk of an outbreak in a certain area. The risk can be defined thanks to massive testing for areas with reported cases of fever or cough,” Phu said, adding that community-based COVID-19 prevention teams could help collect information.

Hải Dương now has about 11,000 such teams with the participation of about 25,000 members.

Then, authorities need to assess the connection between the other areas and the areas where outbreaks happened.

Each locality in the province should also review their preventive measures and strictly follow the Health Ministry’s ‘5K’ message as the pandemic was still developing worldwide. Provinces with industrial zones like Hải Dương were always more vulnerable to disease risks. —


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Quảng Ninh’s Vân Đồn International Airport reopens



Vân Đồn International Airport. — VNA/ Photo

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Transport permitted Vân Đồn International Airport in the northern province of Quảng Ninh to reopen from 6:01am on Wednesday with the COVID-19 pandemic put under control in the province and the airport deemed safe to transport passengers.

The airport was temporarily closed from January 29 after a COVID-19 outbreak involving several of the airport’s security staff was detected.

The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines announced earlier it will resume flights between HCM City and Quảng Ninh on Wednesday, becoming the first to restart flights to Vân Đồn airport since the cluster broke out.

From March 3 to 17, there will be one weekly flight between the two destinations on Wednesdays. Flight numbers will be increased to three a week, on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, from March 18 until the end of the year.

Flights will take off at 1:00pm from HCM City and 3:45pm from Vân Đồn.

Passengers on the first three flights after resumption will enjoy a discounted fair of VNĐ507,000, including taxes and fees, per journey. —


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Nigerian man sentenced to death for transporting drugs to Vietnam



Ekwegbalu James Nzube at the court – PHOTO: VNA

HCMC – The People’s Court of the southern province of Tay Ninh on March 2 handed down the death penalty to Ekwegbalu James Nzube, a 45-year-old Nigerian man, for transporting nearly 4kg of drugs from Cambodia to Vietnam.

Before the arrest, Nzube stayed at Hoa Hong Hotel on To Ky Street, Trung My Tay Ward, District 12, HCMC.

According to the indictment, Nzube was caught illegally entering Vietnam from Cambodia by border guards at border marker No. 170/3 in Loi Thuan Commune, Ben Cau District, at around 8 p.m. on July 30, 2020.

The border guards found four packages containing nearly 4kg of drugs in his luggage, which were later identified as Methamphetamine.

Nzube said he met another Nigerian man named Johe in Guangzhou, China, in 2014, who hired him to transport the drugs from Cambodia to Vietnam.

Nzube arrived at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport on March 13, 2020. He received a phone call from Johe on July 23 and agreed to transport the drugs from Cambodia to Vietnam for US$2,000.

Four days later, he took a taxi from HCMC to the Moc Bai International Border Gate in Tay Ninh Province and walked to Cambodia.

On July 29, he received four packages of drugs and US$1,100 from an unidentified man and was arrested while returning to Vietnam on July 30.


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