Vietnam is scheduled to host the 31st Southeast Asian Games on May 12-23 in the capital city Hanoi. But the Games, which was supposed to take place late last year, is now at risk of getting canceled again due to rising COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia.
Amidst efforts to vaccinate the population and the continued implementation of safety measures, countries in the region are suffering a recent huge spike in coronavirus cases.
Last Friday, the Philippines recorded 37,207 new infections, its highest daily tally since the pandemic started. Vietnam, meanwhile, continues to see new daily cases averaging 15,000. Singapore also sees an average of 880 cases every day.
In Thailand, while the new numbers are far lower than in August last year when the country experienced its worst outbreak, more than 8,000 cases are added to the board daily. Malaysia and Indonesia had just added 3,010 and 855 new cases, respectively, to their caseload on Sunday. Laos, which was COVID-free in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, now averages 1,000 new daily infections.
On a brighter note, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei, and Timor-Leste have seemingly put their local outbreaks under control as they start mapping out plans to welcome travelers back.
A report from Filipino media Inquirer noted that a source familiar with the biennial multi-sports event said: “It is in danger of getting canceled for good.” Vietnam recently called off the International Badminton Challenge set for March as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Vietnam postponed the SEA Games, initially scheduled for November 21 to December 2, 2021, due to the resurgence of coronavirus infections. The country went through different levels of lockdown from May to September during the peak of its fourth outbreak. It was only in October when the country started lifting movement restrictions across major cities and allowed the reopening of businesses.
After the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism confirmed new schedules for the sporting event in October, the country asked the national Olympic committees of Southeast Asian countries for support and assistance to make the Games possible.
Nguyen Van Phu, a representative of Vietnam’s organizing committee, noted in December that safety measures against COVID-19 are the organizers’ top priority in May. All athletes, coaches, and members of the delegations will be mandated to undergo regular testing during the Games. The committee will also set up testing centers in competition and non-competition venues.
Vietnam is expected to receive about 10,000 athletes, coaches, and spectators for 520 events across 40 sports. Vietnam had reportedly set aside a budget of US$69 million to stage the event.
Beyond Hanoi, some of the competitions will be held in the northern provinces of Bac Ninh, Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ha Nam, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh, Vinh Phuc, Phu Tho, and Bac Giang.
The SEA Games Federation meets on January 19 to take up entry by numbers. So far, only Myanmar has submitted its total number of delegations. Inquirer’s sources noted that by this time, just a few months before the event, organizers should have been finalizing entries by names already.
Moving the Games to an even later date is also out of the question because Phnom Penh, Cambodia, needs enough time to prepare as it will take its turn as host in May 2023, reads the report.
Vietnam last hosted SEA Games back in 2003 in Ho Chi Minh City, where it ruled as the overall champion.