Life slowly trickles back to normal in the northern province of Hai Duong as social distancing measures have been lifted and lockdown was eased today, March 3. The province, which has a population of more than two million, became the epicentre of Vietnam’s third COVID-19 outbreak.
Hai Duong has been in lockdown and strict monitoring since January 28, when the province reported two local cases of the coronavirus, the first cases to be detected in the country after 55 clean days. Since then, the province has already recorded over 680 cases across all of its 12 towns and districts.
Secretary of Hai Duong Party Committee Pham Xuan Thang said on Monday that the outbreaks in the province are gradually being brought under control. “It’s time the fight against the pandemic turns to a new chapter, maintaining a balance between socio-economic development and keeping the pandemic in check,” he explained, according to Viet Nam News.
Among the most industrialized and developed provinces in Vietnam, Hai Duong is home to a number of industrial complexes that employ hundreds of thousands of its residents.
The provincial government said that easing the lockdowns and movement restrictions will bring back Hai Duong's economic vigor, and will allow the flow of goods, services and activities again.
Authorities divided the localities in the province into two groups, under different restrictions depending on the COVID-19 situation in the area. Hai Duong City, Kinh Mon township, Cam Giang District and Kim Thanh are now placed under the Government’s Directive 15, the highest level of social distancing. This means gatherings and meetings should involve no more than 20 people maintaining two-meter distance; non-essential services still shut down and public passenger transport are halted. The remaining eight localities in the province are given less restrictive measures.
Factories and plants have reopened today, and thousands of workers are expected to resume their work. Business owners are required to sign documents affirming their commitment to the safety and wellbeing of their workers. The provincial management board also encourages routine COVID-19 tests for employees and managers.
Markets, accommodation facilities as well as retail/wholesale trading shops are also now allowed to resume operations, but at limited capacity. For students, remote learning will continue until at least March 17.
While the province-wide social distancing has been lifted today, a commune in Kim Thanh District was placed under tight 14-day lockdown on March 1 after new cases emerged in the area.
Everyone in Hai Duong and Vietnam is urged to follow the Ministry of Health’s 5K message: Khẩu trang (face mask), Khử khuẩn (disinfection), Khoảng cách (distance), Không tụ tập (no gathering), Khai báo y tế (health declaration).
PM requests for inoculation to start this week
As Hai Duong and other cities affected by the third wave of infections start to recover, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered the MoH to start the COVID-19 vaccination campaign to prevent another outbreak.
The prime minister said inoculations must start this week, prioritizing the poor, disadvantaged families and frontline health workers.
Vietnam received its first 117,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines on February 24. The shipment from South Korea landed at Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport, and was welcomed by Deputy Health Minister Trương Quốc Cường and British Consul-General Emily Hamblin.
Vietnam has signed a contract with AstraZeneca in November 2020 to produce and deliver 30 million doses which will be delivered in phases throughout 2021. Aside from the 30 million doses, Vietnam will be receiving 30 million more from WHO-led COVAX scheme.
The government earlier issued a list of groups to be given the first jabs. Healthworkers, military and police forces, teachers, diplomats and those working in essential services were identified as the priority group.
PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc also praised Hai Duong provincial government’s efforts in containing the coronavirus outbreak, describing it as another success of the country’s fight against COVID-19.
He further reiterated that the budget for vaccination will be ensured so every Vietnamese can be vaccinated. Vietnam targets to have at least 70% of its nearly 100 million population inoculated.
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Vietnam slips in COVID-19 resilience ranking
Vietnam’s strategic handling of COVID-19 wave after wave has been praised by the international community. However, the latest outbreak in Hai Duong and the lockdown the government had to implement in the province has created a dent in Vietnam’s resilience ranking.
A new Bloomberg ranking of the most resilient COVID-19 era economies showed Vietnam slipping eight spots down, from being number 10 in November.
The country scored 57 out of 100 (from 74.3 previously), due to the new outbreak linked to the new UK-originated variant and the “lockdown severity” that hampered economic activities and movements.
New Zealand ranked first, followed by Australia and Singapore. China, where the coronavirus started was in sixth position, while the US, the worst hit country, stood at 27.
Bloomberg’s resilience ranking measured 53 economies of over $200 billion GDP on key factors such as growth in virus cases to overall mortality rates, testing capabilities and vaccine supply agreements, local healthcare systems, lockdowns and restrictions on people’s movement and routines.