HCM City is resuming the use of university dormitories as quarantine facilities along with 52 other quarantine areas, with a total of 4,500 beds in hospitals and districts, according to the city Department of Health.

The quarantine facilities at Việt Nam National University-HCM City and HCM City National Academy of Politics in Thủ Đức District, and HCM City University of Foreign Languages- Information Technology in Hóc Môn District, house a total of 10,000 people.   

Speaking at an online meeting with the Government held on Monday, Nguyễn Thành Phong, chairman of the city People’s Committee, said these facilities were ready to admit people designated for isolation because they were related to COVID-19 patients.

The city also has 24 hotels used as quarantine facilities where isolated people have to pay fees for their stay. They are located in districts 1, 7, Tân Bình, Cần Giờ and others. They can house 2,219 people. The city also has four hotels for quarantining aircraft crew members only.

As of Wednesday, 2,306 people were isolated in the city’s quarantine areas and 1,605 quarantined at home.

Five hospitals in the city treat COVID-19 patients: the Field Hospital in Củ Chi District, Cần Giờ District Health Centre, Oncology Hospital’s second branch in Thủ Đức City, Hospital for Tropical Diseases in District 5 and the City Children’s Hospital in Bình Chánh District.

The city has a sufficient number of COVID-19 test kits, Phong said.

According to the city Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control, the city has controlled transmission of infections among the staff at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport’s cargo services, where a cluster of cases has occurred.

The centre is strengthening surveillance of people from COVID-19-hit provinces returning to the city after Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday. It has instructed all people returning to the city to fill out health declaration forms.

At bus stations, railway stations and the airport, healthcare authorities have taken samples at random from 3,464 people as of Wednesday. Of these, 3,266 results tested negative for the virus. The rest are waiting for test results.

The city has 12 areas still under lockdown due to COVID-19. They are in districts 3, Bình Tân, Gò Vấp, Tân Bình and Thủ Đức City. 

Now is golden time for Hai Duong to stamp out COVID-19: Deputy Minister

Now is the golden time for Hai Duong to stamp out the COVID-19 outbreak, said Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son during a visit to check COVID-19 response in the northern province on February 18.

Hai Duong must speed up testing and report to the Health Ministry if it needs assistance, he added.

The minister also pointed out that the transmission of the highly contagious UK COVID-19 variant and the mass movement of industrial park workers to return to work after Tet remain the biggest challenges to the province’s effort to contain the coronavirus spread.

Later the same day, Chairwoman of the People’s Committee of Kinh Mon town Nguyen Thi Lieu said a temporary lockdown order has been imposed on the headquarters of local cement producer Vicem Hoang Thach from 2:00pm after one of its workers was confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 in the morning.

The town’s Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control immediately collected samples from all 1,635 workers of the company for coronavirus testing.

On the same day’s afternoon, Chairwoman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front’s Hanoi Committee Nguyen Lan Huong, on behalf of the capital city, handed over financial assistance worth 2 billion VND (87,000 USD) and 50,000 medical masks to aid COVID-19 response in Hai Duong.

As of 3:00pm on February 18, Hai Duong has confirmed a total of 576 COVID-19 cases, according to the provincial Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control./.

Hanoi conducts testing for people coming from pandemic-hit regions

All people living in Hanoi with recent travel history to COVID-19-hit regions of 12 localities must self-quarantine and test for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, announced the municipal Department of Health on February 18.

The cases include those who travelled from or to Cam Giang district of the northern province of Hai Duong– the country’s largest hotspot, from January 15; and returned from other localities of Hai Duong from February 2.

People went to pandemic-hit regions of Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Hung Yen, Hoa Binh, Ha Giang and Dien Bien in the north; Gia Lai in the Central Highlands region; and Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong in the south, are also required to take the test.

Duration for health declaration and COVID-19 testing will last from February 18 to 20. Those required to take the test can contact hotlines 0969.082.115 or 0949.396.115.

Hanoi recorded 35 COVID-19 infections in the community from January 27 to February 18, according to the Hanoi Health Department./.

Vice President joins tree-planting festival in Quang Binh

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in coordination with the People’s Committee of central Quang Binh province has held a tree-planting festival in Quang Phu commune, Dong Hoi city, in the presence of Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh.

In her remarks, Thinh recalled the tree-planting campaign launched by President Ho Chi Minh in the Spring in 1960, saying that generations of Vietnamese have responded to his call for environmental protection in the time since.

Climate change and extreme weather patterns have had negative impacts on many areas nationwide, she said. In 2020, central provinces, including Quang Binh, suffered substantial losses from storms and floods.

Given this, she stressed, tree planting and forestation hold strategic significance for the country’s sustainable development.

She called for joint efforts in the campaign, particularly the initiative from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to plant a billion trees over the next five years.

A representative from the MARD said that during the 2016-2020 period, some 227,000 ha of concentrated forests and 67 million scattered trees were planted each year.

The rate of forest coverage reached 42 percent last year and the export value of wood and wooden products was 13.17 billion USD, up 16.4 percent year-on-year.

Forest coverage is expected to remain unchanged during the 2021-2025 period, with export revenue set at 20 billion USD.

Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Tran Thang reported that the locality planted 8,100 ha of concentrated forests and harvested 450,000 cu.m. of wood in 2020.

Quang Binh ranked second nationwide in forest coverage last year, with 68 percent, he said.

After the launch ceremony, Thinh paid tribute to President Ho Chi Minh and martyrs in Quang Binh, and visited a centre for disabled children in Dong Hoi city./.

15 COVID-19 patients in Quang Ninh declared recovered

A COVID-19 treatment hospital in the northern province of Quang Ninh on February 18 gave the all-clear to three patients who tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus three times.

Hospital No. 2, which was set up within the Quang Ninh Lung Hospital, is treating 25 COVID-19 patients, of whom 10 have tested negative twice.

Between February 14 and 17, the Vietnam-Sweden Hospital in Uong Bi city also confirmed the recovery of 12 COVID-19 patients who all tested negative three times and are now under home quarantine for 14 days.

The test results for six other patients at the hospital have been negative twice.

As of January 28, Quang Ninh had recorded 60 COVID-19 cases, with two transferred to the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi’s Dong Anh district.

The total of COVID-19 cases in Vietnam stood at 2,329 as of the morning of February 18, including 1,430 community infections, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control reported.

Some 144,070 people who had close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients or entered Vietnam from pandemic-hit regions are under quarantine nationwide.

Since January 27, when the pandemic broke out in northern localities, 737 new cases of community transmission have been detected./.

Hanoi serves 122,000 visitors during Lunar New Year festival

The capital city of Hanoi welcomed over 122,000 tourist arrivals during the first seven days of the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival which lasts from February 10-16 , according to the municipal Department of Tourism.

The most favourite destinations during the holiday included the Temple of Literature, Hanoi Zoo, Thang Long Imperial Citadel, Ba Vi National Park, and Bao Son Paradise Park.

In the context of complicated developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, all disease prevention instructions and regulations have been strictly observed, aiming to ensure the safety of tourists.

Visitors were requested to wear face masks, keep a safe distance, and wash hands and get their body temperature checked before participating in tourism, cultural, and sports activities in public places, visiting museums, historical relics, landscapes, and festivals.

In a bid to promote local tourism, many lodging facilities slashed down their service prices with many attractive packages and menus./.

14th NA Standing Committee to convene 53rd meeting on February 22

The 14th National Assembly Standing Committee will convene its 53rd meeting in the capital city of Hanoi on February 22, announced the NA Office on February 19.

The session, to last one day, is scheduled to offer feedback on the first adjustment of the structure, component and number of nominees to run for the 15th NA at central and local agencies and units, and the number of full-time deputies of the Hanoi People’s Council (if qualified).

Participants will also examine the Government’s working report for the 2016-2021 tenure, and present in written form their feedback on the NA and NA Standing Committee’s reports reviewing their performance in the 14th tenure.

They will look into preparations for the 14th NA’s 11th session, the draft Resolution on amendments and supplements to the Resolution No.887-NQ/UBTVQH12 on the issuance of scientific management regulations in NA and NA Standing Committee’s organs and NA Office./.

About 8.55 million disadvantaged people receive support to enjoy Tet

Some 8.55 million poor and near poor people, Agent Orange/dioxin victims and disadvantaged workers nationwide enjoyed a warmer traditional Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday since they received support worth more than 6.11 trillion VND (265.24 million USD) through the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) at all levels and trade unions, heard a conference held in Hanoi on February 17.

According to Vice President of the VFF Central Committee Truong Thi Ngoc Anh, the VFF at all levels splashed out over 910 billion VND to present 1.8 million Tet gift packages to the impoverished and people with difficult circumstances.

The VFF’s member organisations also carried out a wide range of Tet activities for policy beneficiary families, poor workers, disadvantaged people, and people with disabilities such as offering them with free coach and train tickets and presenting them saving books and healthcare insurance, she added.

Speaking highly of the engagement of the VFF’s member organisations, President of the VFF Central Committee Tran Thanh Man affirmed that taking care of the poor, policy beneficiary families, people who rendered services to the nation and vulnerable groups must be done in a regular and continuous manner, particularly during Tet holidays to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy a warm New Year.

Despite formidable challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tet gifts were delivered to the needy across the nation, he stressed, asking the front and its members to have thorough understanding of the livelihoods of the people who have been affected by social distancing, and suffered difficulties in production and business so as to give timely support to them.

Furthermore, Man ordered better coordination between the VFF and its members with a view to caring the people who are directly fighting the pandemic, as well as those in border, mountainous and island areas, and localities hard hit by natural disasters./.

Digital transformation programme expected to improve library sector’s efficiency

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has approved a digital transformation programme for the library sector to 2025 with a vision to 2030, with an overall goal of strengthening the comprehensive application of IT, especially digital technology to enhance operational efficiency and form a modern library network.

The objectives of the programme include ensuring the supply of services to meet the demand of users, while attracting more people using library services, contributing to improving people’s literacy and building a learning society.

To 2025, 100 percent of public libraries with important role invested along with the Vietnam National Library, and public libraries in provinces and centrally-run cities will develop and complete digital infrastructure, digital data. The libraries are expected to provide online services.

Besides, 70 percent of rare and valuable documents and those with special value in history, culture and science are hoped to be digitalised.

Under the scheme, 100 percent of library staff will be trained and retrained to master the management of the modern library system.

By 2030, the scheme will cover all types of libraries, ensuring the provision of library services in everywhere and at every time.

To this end, the programme gives a number of solutions, including improving public awareness in the field by strengthening communications, completing relevant mechanisms, policies and legal regulations, promoting digital infrastructure as well as the digital data of the sector, and ensuring cyber security.

Library services using digital resources as well as products with the application of artificial intelligence (AI) will be diversified.

Along with the provision of online services serving people’s studying, researching and entertainment demands, library mobile apps will be developed to ensure that people can access library information all the time at any places.

An open data system will be build to enable the community, businesses and private libraries to engage in building an open data ecosystem and the national library information system, contributing to building smart cities and studying society./.

VN-Thai rom-com movie released nationwide

Mỹ Nhân Thần Sách (Bookworm Beauty), a rom-com movie jointly produced by Việt Nam and Thailand, will be released nationwide today.

The film is the first directorial project of the director of photography Nguyễn Tường Nguyên Phương, who has made numerous music videos for favourite singers like Tố My and Hari Won.

The production tells the story about a shy bookworm named An who faces challenges after moving to a new school. She finds help to overcome her difficulties from a book titled Yêu Sách (Magical Book).

Minh Beta, the movie’s producer and CEO of Beta Cinemas, told local media: “I want to send a message about a choice between a beautiful appearance or a beautiful soul. Which one will people want to become?”

Young actress Việt Linh, who is known through the Vietnamese blockbuster Tiệc Trăng Máu (Blood Moon Party) and rom-com Sài Gòn Trong Cơn Mưa (Sài Gòn in the Rain), plays An.

The movie also features young Thai actor Nanon Kirdpan, who is popular among Vietnamese audiences from his roles in movies and TV dramas like The Gifted and My Precious.

Young Vietnamese actors like Trúc Anh Burin, Thiên Nga and Gino Tống appear in the film along with veteran actresses Hà Hương and Phi Phụng.

Minh, who also played a minor role in the movie, said: “I invited Nanon to bring my movie closer to Thai audiences, while promising Vietnamese actors will bring many surprises to audiences.”

He and his staff decided to make two versions of the film in Vietnamese and Thai languages to serve audiences in the two countries.

“We faced many difficulties in the decision. Thanks to all cast and staff, our movie is excellent," Minh said.

Minh is known as a producer of movies Kế Hoạch Đổi Chồng (Plan to Change Husband), and Ngày Mai Mai Cưới (Mai is Getting Married Tomorrow), and sitcom Phía Tây Thành Phố (West of the City), which were popular with Vietnamese audiences.

Last April, Minh released music video Việt Nam ơi! Đánh Bay Covid (Dear Việt Nam, Let’s Win the War on Covid-19), a music project endorsed by the Ministry of Heath.

The song is another version of Việt Nam Ơi! (Dear Việt Nam), a motivational song for the national football team by Minh.

The new lyrics call on Vietnamese people to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MV has attracted more than 9.5 million views. 

Hà Nội stops all festivals until February 26

All traditional festivals in Hà Nội will be temporarily postponed until the first full moon day of the new lunar year (February 26) in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, authority officials have said.

Vice-Chairman of the Hà Nội People's Committee, Chử Xuân Dũng urged all districts and local areas where traditional festivals will take place this month to strictly follow the city's direction to suspend all cultural activities until the full moon of Lunar January to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

He issued the instruction at a meeting of the city's Steering Committee for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 on Saturday in the capital.

"It is better to be a little bit slow but safe rather than having to be isolated for a month... When the whole commune or district is in isolation, it will affect the social life of the community, even the socio-economic development of the whole city," Dũng said when asking Mỹ Đức District to stop cultural activities, including the welcoming visitors to the annual Hương Pagoda festival in the area.

Reporting on the prevention of COVID-19 in the capital city, Deputy Director of the Hà Nội's Department of Health Hoàng Đức Hạnh said that the pandemic situation in the country and in the world was still complicated and from February 10-13, in Hà Nội, two new cases of COVID-19 were reported.

"The health sector is continuously conducting strict isolation and testing of all cases entering Hà Nội to proactively monitor and prevent the COVID-19 pandemic," said Hạnh

Regarding activities of the Hương Pagoda Festival, the authority in Mỹ Đức said the district would follow the city's instructions.

The festival's Steering Committee officially announced to stop all activities at the Hương Pagoda and will not welcome visitors to the festival.

Earlier, Nguyễn Bá Hiển, head of the Management Board of the Hương Sơn Historical and Scenic Complex in Mỹ Đức District, said the Hương Pagoda Festival in 2021 would be cancelled for the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival takes place annually for three months, from February 13 to the end of May 5. The opening ceremony of the festival is held on the sixth day of the first month in the lunar calendar every year.

Before the festive season, all preparations have been made seriously. The organiser of the festival has also made plans to flexibly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, due to the complex developments of the pandemic, the district decided not to hold the festival and also stop receiving visitors.

On the same day, the organising committee of the Đống Đa Festival, one of the major traditional events of the city in early spring, which usually takes place on the fifth day of the first month in the lunar calendar, also decided to cancel the festival.

Border district residents see life improvements

Slowly but surely, residents in the poor northern mountainous province of Sơn La are climbing out of poverty.

This has been achieved through a combination of hard work, and ingenuity.

Take 30-year-old Lò Văn Thuấn from Nà Môn Village as a case in point.

He and his family made the bold decision to covert low-yield maize and cassava business into a citrus farm.

Thuấn planted orange trees and now he is reaping the rewards.

After ten years of taking care the fruit garden, he now earns VNĐ200 million (US$8,700) profit for each orange crop.

“Yearly income is more and more stable and has significantly improved,” he said.

Seeing his success, others followed suit. A decade ago, Nà Môn Village had just 10ha of fruit trees, now it is 60ha.

Lò Văn Bảo, Chief of Nà Môn Village said a half of local households have switched to planting fruit trees.

He said: “The average annual income of each fruit growing family is about VNĐ200 million. Since moving to fruit tree planting, villagers have had a stable income and better life."

But it is not just the switch to fruit production that has helped those who live in Sốp Cộp District.

A national development programme to breathe new life into the region has been hailed a success thanks to financial support from central government.

Investment of more than VNĐ118 billion has helped build better roads, better houses, and improve public transport networks.

Sốp Cộp District has over 120km of border line with Laos and improved border control has helped secure the area.

Major Vi Văn Chương, at Mường Lạn Border Guard Station, said, along with the protection of national border sovereignty security, the unit has co-ordinated with local authorities to help local people.

Soldiers helped clear roads and build structures.

The border-guard soldiers regularly shared their hand to clean roads and build welfare constructions.

Vice Chairwoman of the district People's Committee, Tòng Thị Kiên, said the hard work has paid off, and now the district’s poor households account for just 24 per cent of the community.

109 killed on roads in seven days of Tết holiday 


A total of 109 people were killed and 123 injured in traffic accidents across the country during seven days (February 10-16) of the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, the Ministry of Public Security’s Traffic Police Department has announced.

This is a reduction of 8 per cent in fatalities, 18 per cent in injuries and 29.3 per cent in accidents compared to the previous year, respectively, it said.

There were two serious traffic accidents in the Central Highland province of Gia Lai and central Bình Định Province, killing seven people and leaving three others seriously injured.

According to the department, most of the accidents occurred between 12am and 4pm and from 6pm to 10pm when people travel for the gatherings during the holiday.

The department also said that the national traffic police force found more than 16,750 traffic violations, seized 101 cars and 4,642 motorcycles, and revoked the driving licences of 1,930 people.

In the first four days of the holiday, the number of vehicles travelling on roads in big cities increased, but few traffic jams were reported.

In Hà Nội, Ring Road 3, the National Highway No1, No32 and the expressways connecting Hà Nội, Hải Phòng, Quảng Ninh, Lạng Sơn, Thái Nguyên, Lào Cai, were crowded with vehicles moving slowly but no serious congestion. The traffic situation in the inner city was stable.

In HCM City, commuters travelling by buses increased but more people were stopped for driving while under the influence of alcohol. 

Dr Phạm Vũ Hùng from Việt Nam-Germany Friendship Hospital’s Emergency Department said between February 9 and 15, 49 people were treated in hospital as a result of drink-related traffic accidents. Last year’s number was 39.

Hùng said only on Tuesday, five cases patients were transferred from local hospitals because of their severe symptoms. 

“Brain injury victims of traffic accidents are difficult to treat, and even more difficult when patients consumed alcohol and infatuated as it would be unable to determine the extent of damage," he said.

Figures from the Ministry of Health showed that hospitals across Việt Nam received 4,001 emergency cases during the first six days of Tết. Of that, 1,855 cases were serious and six deaths were reported.

Hospitals and health clinics also announced more than 16,500 newborns babies over the holiday period. 

Travel demand decreased during Tết holiday

Reports from the National Traffic Safety Committee showed the travel demand of people before the Lunar New Year decreased significantly compared to the previous year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The volume of passenger and cargo transportation on the railways also decreased significantly compared to last year. From February 9 to 13, the total number of train passengers was more than 12,790, only accounting for 33.5 per cent year-on-year. The output of loading and unloading goods was only 6,035 tonnes, reaching 65.5 per cent year-on-year.

The volume of passengers and cargo at the airports decreased by 64.8 per cent and 54.4 per cent compared to 2020.

Vehicles circulating on inland waterways and navigational channels were convenient, safe and without any traffic congestion. 

47-year-old South Korean executive found dead in apartment negative for COVID-19

The South Korean man who was found dead in his apartment Wednesday morning tested negative for COVID-19, Hà Nội’s authorities announced later Wednesday .

Born in 1974, and residing in Việt Nam since 2014, the construction director lived alone in his apartment at Goldmark City apartment complex in Bắc Từ Liêm District.

The man was found dead Wednesday morning by a guard after his friends failed to contact him and raised the alarm.

The apartment building was immediately locked down pending the man’s COVID-19 diagnosis, but the order is expected to be lifted soon following his negative result.

The cause of death is initially reported as stroke.

The incident drew heightened attention after a 54-year-old Japanese expert working for Mitsui and staying in Hà Nội was also found dead in his hotel room while positive for coronavirus on the evening of February 13, more than a month after his arrival in the country.

Two others who came into contact with the man during a meeting on February 2 have also tested positive.

The Japanese man arrived at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport in HCM City on January 17, and had completed two-week mandatory quarantine lasting from January 17-31 here and tested negative for the virus twice.

On January 1, he flew to Hà Nội and stayed at a hotel in Tây Hồ District.

Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long at a Government meeting said it’s likely that the man contracted the virus in Hà Nội within the five to seven-day window prior to his death because the virus load detected in his body was still quite high.

Long didn’t rule out the possibility that he got the virus in the quarantine facility in HCM City but said the chance is pretty slim.

Hà Nội’s health authorities also Wednesday announced the suspension of Raffles Medical clinic in Hà Nội due to its failure to collect a biological sample from the Japanese man to test for COVID-19 when he visited the clinic on February 2 and 8 when he showed suspect symptoms of mild fever and fatigue. 

Two men fined for making inaccurate health declarations

Authorities in the northern province of Lai Châu's Tân Uyên District have fined two people VNĐ15 million (US$653) each for making inaccurate health declarations.

Lò Văn Hải and Lù Văn Ban were both born in 2002 and live in Tân Uyên District’s Trung Đồng Commune. They worked for Brother Company in Hải Dương Province’s Cẩm Giàng District from November last year to February 4.

However, they deliberately concealed information and declared that they worked at Hòa Lạc Hi-tech Industrial Zone in Hà Nội’s Thạch Thất District after returning to Lai Châu on February 5.

On February 14, upon receiving information from Hải Dương Provincial Police that Lò Văn Hải was an F1 case who had direct contact with a COVID-19 positive person working in the same company, Hải was sent to a concentrated quarantine centre in the province.

The district’s Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control has traced people who had contact with Hải and taken samples for testing.

Lò Văn Ban was also quarantined as he returned from a COVID-19 hotspot.

Provincial authorities have ordered people returning from Hai Duong Province’s Cẩm Giàng District from January 15 and those who have travelled to Hải Dương since February 13 to contact the nearest health centres to make health declaration and take COVID-19 testing.

Pedestrian street in Hoi An reopens

The ancient town of Hoi An in the central province of Quang Nam saw the reopening of its pedestrian street on February 15, in addition to allowing non-motorised vehicles to operate, although tickets for sightseeing activities in the town’s old quarter have not yet gone on sale yet.

Furthermore, other tourist attractions, including assembly halls, ancient houses, temples, and pagodas have also resumed operation.

Truong Thi Ngoc Cam, director of the Center for Culture - Sports and Broadcasting - Television of Hoi An, said that during the Lunar New Year, known locally as Tet, the ancient town welcomes an average of 1,200 to 1,500 visitors daily. Indeed, the reopening of the pedestrian street is being done in an effort to avoid traffic chaos impacting the experience of visitors.

Despite easing restrictions, the town has not relaunched the sale of sightseeing tickets for tourists wishing to visit the old town, although tickets to the two assembly halls of Fujian and Quang Trieu have gone on sale for VND20,000.

Following this, the Assembly Hall of Fujian and Quang Trieu sold 1,000 tickets and 300 tickets on the first day, respectively.

Cam added that the ancient town is still fully decorated with lanterns, and fresh flowers, while restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops are to operate as normal in order to serve visitors.

Other major cultural activities will return to normal depending on developments relating to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an effort to ensure the safety of guests during the current epidemic, relevant forces will be positioned in order to remind visitors to abide by COVID-19 epidemic measures.

Minimal impacts of drought, saline intrusion felt in Mekong Delta

The 2020-2021 winter - spring crop in the Mekong Delta region suffered less from drought and saline intrusion, heard a working session between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the agriculture sectors in 13 regional localities on February 18.

According to deputy head of the MARD’s Department of Crop Production Le Thanh Tung, thanks to early crop cultivation coupled with suitable technical measures, drought and saline intrusion will not affect rice quality and yield in the region, particularly rice areas in coastal localities.

A report from the department showed that the country’s rice granary sow rice in an area of more than 1.5 million hectares, down 30,000 hectares from the 2019-2020 winter-spring crop.

Local farmers have harvested some 350,000 hectares, and the figure is expected at 550,000 hectares by the end of this month. The remaining acreages will be harvested from March to May.

Notably, drought and saline intrusion are said to affect only a small farming area. Some 10,700 hectares of rice in Tra Vinh province are forecast to face the risk of being damaged in the end of the winter-spring crop.

Tung said the region’s rice fields are expected to yield an average of over 6.9 tonnes per hectare, up 0.1 tonne per hectare from the same time last year. Meanwhile, rice output is said to fall some 60,000 tonnes year-on-year to 10.5 million tonnes.

Director of the MARD’s Southern Institute of Water Resources Research Tran Ba Hoang said that saline intrusion will be at a peak from February 15 to March 4, and is forecast to be lower than the previous year.

Pointing out several plantation areas likely to be affected by saltwater such as 1,500 hectares of rice in Long An, 15,000 hectares in Tra Vinh and 25,000 hectares in Bac Lieu, and 40,000 hectares of orchards in Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh and Vinh Long provinces, Hoang said without sufficient water storage, farmers will face critical loss.

Relevant agencies of the MARD recommended Mekong Delta localities build reservoirs in different areas, and upgrade irrigational system to cope with drought and saline intrusion./.

Police bust major fake gasoline ring, arrest 36

Police in the southern province of Đồng Nai on Thursday arrested one more suspect involved in a massive fake gasoline ring that sold about 200 million litres of fake and substandard gasoline.

Lê Thanh Trung, 38, from Cần Thơ City’s Long Tuyền Commune, was apprehended on Thursday for illegally trading fake receipts for the ring.

On February 10, the provincial police apprehended 35 ring members for allegedly smuggling, producing and trading counterfeit goods. The ring was led by Phan Thanh Hữu, 64 in HCM City, and Nguyễn Hữu Tú, 55 in Vĩnh Long Province.

The police raided Trung’s house and confiscated 27 seals of multiple companies founded by the suspect and hired other people to be the companies’ directors. The police also seized six computers, 15 boxes of documents and blank bills.  

On February 6, the provincial police co-operated with the criminal police to mobilise 14 teams to inspect multiple warehouses, filling stations and offices in Đồng Nai, Cần Thơ, Vĩnh Long, Long An, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu and HCM City.

The police caught the suspects transporting and trading a large amount of smuggled gasoline at a floating dock on the Hậu River in southern Vĩnh Long Province’s Mỹ Hoà Commune.

The suspects resisted, rushing the police force's ships and escaped, but were quickly arrested.

The police seized two vessels with a capacity of 1,500 tonnes, five barges with capacities of between 400 and 1,000 tonnes, six tankers, 2.6 million litres of gasoline, four barrels of colouring chemicals, more than VNĐ100 billion (US$4.3 million) in cash, and 12 boxes of documents.

The ring members used chemicals to produce fake and substandard A95 fuel, and transferred the fuel to a floating dock on the Hậu River in southern Vĩnh Long Province. The fuel would later be transported and distributed to filling stations.

On average, one million litres of fake and substandard gasoline were supplied to the market every day. Since last August, approximately 200 million litres of fake and substandard gasoline had been sold.

The case is under further investigation. 

Cities, provinces announce plans on resumption of in-person learning after Tết holiday

Cities and provinces across the country have announced plans for the resumption of in-person learning after the week-long Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, as many have put off the scheduled return due on February 17 over COVID-19 concerns.

According to the Ministry of Education and Training, Đà Nẵng City and 13 provinces, including Kiên Giang, Hà Tịnh, Bắc Kạn, Cà Mau, Đà Nẵng, Đắk Lắk, Khánh Hoà, Lâm Đồng, Nam Định, Nghệ An, Quảng Trị, Thừa Thiên-Huế, Tiền Giang and Lạng Sơn, decided to open schools on February 17, while Yên Bái will keep students home until February 19.

A total of 23 cities and provinces plan to re-open schools early next week. They include Quảng Nam, Hậu Giang, Bắc Ninh, Bến Tre, Bình Dương, Bình Phước, Bình Thuận, Hà Nam, Trà Vinh, Quảng Ngãi, Phú Thọ, Ninh Bình, Hoà Bình, Đắk Nông, Lai Châu, Vĩnh Long and Quảng Ninh, which will allow students to return to school on February 21. Meanwhile, students in Thanh Hoa, An Giang, Lao Cai, Quang Binh, Soc Trang and Bac Lieu will come back to school a day later.

Those in Hà Nội and HCM City alongside eight other localities – Tây Ninh, Đồng Nai, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Phú Yên, Thái Nguyên, Bình Định, Điện Biên and Long An – will have their Tết holiday extended until February 28.

The remainder, including Sơn La, Thái Bình, Bắc Giang, Cần Thơ, Đồng Tháp, Hải Dương, Hải Phòng, Hưng Yên, Kon Tum, Ninh Thuận, Vĩnh Phúc, Cao Bằng, Tuyên Quang, Gia Lai and Hà Giang, will keep schools closed until further notice.

The Ministry of Education and Training has urged schools to shift to online teaching in order to keep students and teachers safe and allow them to catch up with this academic year’s curriculum.

Minister of Education and Training Phùng Xuân Nhạ stressed the need to increase awareness of online learning among students and ensure their safety online.

Border district residents see life improvements

Slowly but surely, residents in the poor northern mountainous province of Sơn La are climbing out of poverty.

This has been achieved through a combination of hard work, and ingenuity.

Take 30-year-old Lò Văn Thuấn from Nà Môn Village as a case in point.

He and his family made the bold decision to covert low-yield maize and cassava business into a citrus farm.

Thuấn planted orange trees and now he is reaping the rewards.

After ten years of taking care the fruit garden, he now earns VNĐ200 million (US$8,700) profit for each orange crop.

“Yearly income is more and more stable and has significantly improved,” he said.

Seeing his success, others followed suit. A decade ago, Nà Môn Village had just 10ha of fruit trees, now it is 60ha.

Lò Văn Bảo, Chief of Nà Môn Village said a half of local households have switched to planting fruit trees.

He said: “The average annual income of each fruit growing family is about VNĐ200 million. Since moving to fruit tree planting, villagers have had a stable income and better life."

But it is not just the switch to fruit production that has helped those who live in Sốp Cộp District.

A national development programme to breathe new life into the region has been hailed a success thanks to financial support from central government.

Investment of more than VNĐ118 billion has helped build better roads, better houses, and improve public transport networks.

Sốp Cộp District has over 120km of border line with Laos and improved border control has helped secure the area.

Major Vi Văn Chương, at Mường Lạn Border Guard Station, said, along with the protection of national border sovereignty security, the unit has co-ordinated with local authorities to help local people.

Soldiers helped clear roads and build structures.

The border-guard soldiers regularly shared their hand to clean roads and build welfare constructions.

Vice Chairwoman of the district People's Committee, Tòng Thị Kiên, said the hard work has paid off, and now the district’s poor households account for just 24 per cent of the community.

COVID-19 hotspot Hải Dương puts five outbreaks under control: committee

Việt Nam's current largest coronavirus hotspot, the northern province of Hải Dương had basically managed to put under control five big COVID-19 outbreaks by Thursday, said the provincial steering committee for COVID-19 prevention and control.

The five outbreaks are in Chí Linh and Hải Dương cities, Cẩm Giàng and Nam Sách districts and Kinh Môn Town.

The province has implemented strict lockdown measures since Tuesday with 949 control stations set up across the province to monitor entry and exit.

The province has as of Thursday recorded 558 COVID-19 patients since January 27. It has more than 13,900 F1 (close contact) cases, of whom more than 5,300 have completed their quarantine period, and more than 67,700 F2 cases, of whom more than 46,800 have completed their quarantine period at home.

Following the direction of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Hải Dương Province, the Chí Linh Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control has moved all 1,625 workers of Poyun Company to nine new quarantine centres.

The move was made after experts from the MoH reported environmental and air pollution at the old quarantine centres.

Chí Linh City previously discovered a big outbreak at the company and immediately locked down the area. All of the company’s workers were asked to go to quarantine centres and 300 workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Nguyễn Văn Kiên, chairman of the Chí Linh City People’s Committee said moving more than 1,600 workers to new places was a big challenge but the city has called for all forces to complete the work.

He added that the 1,625 workers were divided into three groups, including low risk, with risk and high risk depending on their contact with COVID-19 patients.

Captain Nguyễn Mạnh Đức, from the Hải Dương City Military Headquarters, said that military forces had worked with local authorities to supervise people in quarantine centres and remind them to strictly follow preventive regulations.

COVID-19 updates in Southeast Asia

Malaysia on February 18 reported a new daily high of 25 COVID-19 deaths, taking the total fatalities in the country to 1,030.

The country also confirmed 2,712 new coronavirus cases, putting the national tally at nearly 275,000.

In Indonesia, 9,039 new COVID-19 cases and 181 related deaths were logged on the same day, raising the total infections and death toll in the country to 1,252,685 and 33,969, respectively. Indonesia remains as the hardest-hit by the pandemic in Southeast Asia.

The Philippines, meanwhile, recorded 1,744 new cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 555,163. The death toll climbed to 11,673.

The Philippines, which has about 110 million population, has tested over 7.9 million people since the outset of the viral disease early last year.

World Health Organisation Representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe stressed the need to carefully study the plan to ease the lockdown restrictions next month to revive the pandemic-hit economy and address the growing hunger rate.

Though the number of cases has plateaued, the transmission has not flattened yet, he said, urging the country to be conscious of the fact that there is a relatively high-level of transmission now there in the community, and the presence of new variants complicates that situation./.

Long An working hard to cope with saline intrusion

The agricultural sector in the Mekong Delta province of Long An has been actively adopting a wide range of solutions to store water resources for production and daily life as part of efforts to prevent the effects of saltwater intrusion.

According to the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the local agriculture sector and related localities are working on regularly monitoring the level of salinity and developing a reasonable operation plan for main sluices to store sufficient water in canals and ditches when salinity decreases.

Irrigation systems in the districts of Thu Thua, Thanh Hoa, and Tan An and the Nhat Tao - Tan Tru irrigation system are operating to store water for the production and daily life of local residents.

The sector has also urgently built five temporary dams on canals along National Highway No 62, where saltwater prevention sluices have not been built, to prevent saltwater intrusion from the Vam Co Tay River into agricultural production areas in Thanh Hoa and Tan Thanh districts.

Additionally, the provincial Department of Transport is urgently building and installing 18 anti-salinity sluice gates along National Highway No 62 and Provincial Road No 836. This sluice system is expected to actively contribute to preventing the effects of saline intrusion in the area.

Communications activities have been promoted, advising people not to take water in already salty areas, and to quickly store water in ponds, fields, and water storage equipment when water resources are abundant and saltwater has not yet penetrated into inland canals.

Saltwater intrusion is forecast to develop in a complex fashion in the locality during February, March, and April.

Nearly 5,200 ha of rice and over 3,500 ha of fruit trees and vegetable areas in the southern districts of the province are likely to be affected by drought and saline intrusion this year./.