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Singapore hands out coronavirus tracing devices

The government’s TraceTogether tokens are aimed at people who do not have smartphones.

Singapore hands out coronavirus tracing devices

Image copyrightSilver Generation Office (SGO)

Singapore has started to hand out Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing devices as part of its measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The so-called TraceTogether tokens are an alternative to the government’s contact tracing smartphone app.

They are aimed at people who do not own or prefer not to use a mobile phone.

The announcement of the device was met with concerns in some quarters over privacy.

The first batch of the devices are being distributed to vulnerable elderly people who have little or no family support or have mobility problems. 

The tokens have unique QR codes and do not need charging as they have a battery life of up to nine months.

The devices work by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other nearby TraceTogether tokens or smartphones that are running the TraceTogether app.

Users will be alerted by a contact tracing officer if they are detected to have been near someone infected with the coronavirus.

If they are then confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 the data will be downloaded from the device.

Ministers have dismissed concerns raised over users’ privacy, as they argued that they are not designed to tag people’s movements.

The Singapore government has said that the data collected by the devices will be encrypted and kept in the token for a maximum of 25 days.

Authorities have also said that the data cannot be accessed remotely as the tokens have no internet or cellular capabilities.

Reopening economy

Another feature highlighted by the government is that the tokens have no Global Positioning System (GPS) connectivity, so do not collect location data.

The Singaporean government has said that since it launched its TraceTogether smartphone app in March is has been downloaded by around 2.1 million people.

Authorities have said that they need to raise participation in the TraceTogether programme significantly as Singapore has started to reopen its economy.

Earlier this month the Singapore government started to ease its so-called Circuit Breaker lockdown measures, including non-essential retail stores reopening and eating-in allowed again at food and drinks outlets.

The tokens were sourced from a Singapore-based electronics company PCI.

It was announced earlier this month that the company had won the SGD6 million (£3.5m; $4.3m) tender to supply the first 300,000 devices, which works out at SGD20 per token.

On Sunday authorities reported a total of 213 new infections in Singapore, 11 of which were in the community with the balance in foreign workers’ dormitories. That brought the total number of Covid-19 cases to 43,459. BBC



Students change study abroad plans because of Covid-19, new policies

The Covid-19 pandemic and new policies applied by countries receiving foreign students have changed Vietnamese students’ study abroad plans.

Duong Thi Hoai Chan, a parent in HCM City, decided to cancel the plan to send her son abroad to university this year.

Students change study abroad plans because of Covid-19, new policies

The son is studying at an international school in Vietnam, which belongs to a pilot project implemented by the HCM City Education and Training Department and the Australian Ministry of Education.

The students are following an Australian curriculum, under which the new academic year begins in January and finishes in November.

Chan initially decided that her son would go abroad to follow university education in Australia or Canada, the countries which allow admissions in January. However, as the epidemic is escalating and online learning is still maintained in Australia and Canada, Chan has reconsidered her decision.

The Covid-19 pandemic and new policies applied by countries receiving foreign students have changed Vietnamese students’ study abroad plans.

Since the son will finish high school in November, he won’t be able to enroll in universities which begin new academic years in September.

Therefore, Chan is considering opportunities to study finance under foreign curricula at the Vietnam-Germany International University (a member of HCM City National University) and the International School of Business-ISB (a member school of the HCM City Economics University) and some other schools.

She also is considering the 2+2 or 2+1 training models, i.e. two-year study in Vietnam and another one or two years in foreign countries.

However, the son wants to study medicine or life-related sciences, while these schools have advantages in economics majors.

Chan admitted that she considers ‘non-traditional choices’ for her son. And if the son wants a gap year, she will support his idea. During the gap year, she will encourage him to go to vocational schools or go to Israel to study.

The parent said, due to Covid-19, she has had more time to understand what her son wants and where he wants to study. Covid-19 has made her understand that one needs to be very flexible to adapt to all changes in their lives.

Tran Manh Hung, a parent in Lam Dong province, has two daughters who were initially planning to go to Australia to study arts and design. However, because of Covid-19, they will stay in Vietnam and study at domestic schools.

While the elder sister will study design at an international school, the younger sister has chosen HCM City Architecture University.

Le Thi Linh from International School of Business said the number of students asking for information about international training programs at the school is higher this year. She estimates that the number of applications is 50 percent higher than the previous year.

Le Ha 


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Woman becomes mother after 20 years of infertility

Nguyễn Thị Minh and her husband hold their nine-month-old son in their arms at an event in Hà Nội in July. —VNA/ Photo Thùy Giang

HÀ NỘI — Nguyễn Thị Minh, 43, holds her nine-month-old son in her arms with the great happiness of a mother.

Minh finally fell pregnant when she was 42 years old thanks to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) after experiencing a 20-year journey with her husband seeking to become a mother.

Minh married her husband in 2000. She had an ectopic pregnancy twice and had to have a fallopian tube cut. She was also diagnosed with endometriosis.

This meant the couple had yet to have a baby after eight years of marriage although they went to many major hospitals in Hà Nội for treatment.

The couple then decided to use all their savings and borrow money from their relatives for IVF for the first time in 2008. However, the treatment failed.

They ran out of money due to medical expenses, so her husband decided to work abroad to earn money to cover the debt.

In 2018, her husband returned to Việt Nam after a decade of working. But he did not think of doing IVF again and he feared a second failure.

“However, I still wanted to have one more chance, I still really wanted to become a mother,” Minh said.

She persuaded her husband and the couple went to Andrology and Fertility Hospital of Hà Nội in November 2018 for another chance.

Two months later, Minh was eager for the first embryo transfer.

On the day to transfer the first embryo, Lê Thị Thu Hiền, deputy director of the hospital advised Minh to carefully consider because Minh’s endometrium was in bad conditions and it would be difficult to conceive.

Minh hesitated, but her husband encouraged her and said she should try, so she agreed.

Six days later, Minh burst into tears when she saw the home pregnancy test showed two faint lines.

She immediately went to a hospital for a blood test and the result confirmed she was pregnant.

“No word can describe my happiness at that moment,” she said.

Minh was often threatened with miscarriage during her pregnancy. She also suffered gestational diabetes until the 39th week of pregnancy.

“I cried a lot because of fear, the fear of losing my baby,” she said.

But her husband kept encouraging her.

“We together cried with happiness when our healthy son was born,” she said.

Hope for infertile couples

Nguyễn Khắc Lợi, director of the hospital said the Department of Reproductive Support, had successfully carried out IVF for thousands of couples in the past eight years, including many difficult cases.

Lợi said modern reproductive technologies, especially IVF technology with other supporting methods, had helped many infertile couples in Việt Nam have healthy babies.

The success rate for IVF treatment increases year after year and is currently about 50 – 70 per cent, he said.

Hiền, deputy director of the hospital, gave an example that the hospital conducted IVF for a couple in Sóc Sơn District in 2018. Both husband and wife were diagnosed with thalassemia.

The doctors advised the couple to perform IVF with the support of pre-implantation genetic testing, she said.

As a result, the embryo transfer was successful the first time. The wife, Lê Thị Xuân, 36, delivered two healthy infants, one male and one female in 2019, Hiền said.

Another example was a couple with a husband who suffered from testicular trauma which meant the couple could not have a baby for nine years, she said.

In May 2018, the couple decided to go to the hospital for treatment and doctors performed surgery for the husband to take his sperm to carry out in vitro fertilisation and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (IVF ICSI).

Thanks to the successful surgery, his wife was pregnant and delivered two healthy boys. The little boys were 15 months old now, she said. —



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Construction ministry urges better management of industrial buildings

Dozens of factories in Phước Tân Industrial Zone in Đồng Nai Province are constructed without licences. — VNA/ Photo Sỹ Tuyên

HÀ NỘI — People’s committees of central-level cities and provinces have been ordered to strengthen quality management of industrial buildings with large walls.

The move came after recent wall collapses which led to deaths and property damage.

According to the Ministry of Construction, the construction of industrial buildings has mushroomed in almost all localities.

In many cases, building contractors and constructors are not qualified and there are reportedly violations in the construction process, resulting in accidents.

The Ministry of Construction asked the Vietnam Institute for Building Science and Technology to compile instructions on the design, construction and inspection of industrial buildings with large walls.

The quality management of those buildings would be more urgent to ensure safety and avoid further incidents in the coming rainy season, said deputy minister of construction Lê Quang Hùng.

Localities must also strengthen management on the capacity of investors, contractors and constructors of industrial buildings, he said.

On May 14, 10 workers died and 14 others suffered from severe injuries in a wall collapse at a factory of Av Healthcare JS Company located in Giang Điền Industrial Zone in southern Đồng Nai Province.

In March last year, six people died after a wall collapsed in a factory of Bohsing Company in Vĩnh Long Province.

In both cases, the wall collapses resulted from construction violations. —


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