Hundreds of schools in the northern region have allowed students to stay at home amid the freezing cold weather when a new strong cold spell has pushed temperature down to below 10 degree C and even under 0 degree C.

Lai Chau alone saw 132 schools close, most in mountainous areas.

The cold spell has brought rain and dropping temperature, and caused frost and snow in high mountain areas. The most affected provinces include Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Son La, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Yen Bai, and Lang Son, with temperatures dropping even below 0 degree C in high mountainous areas.

The northern region and north central provinces from Thanh Hoa to Thua Thien-Hue are in the grip of biting cold, with the temperature dropping to 7-10 degrees Celsius at the lowest and even plunged to below 0 degree C in mountainous areas. In Hanoi, temperature is from 8-13 degrees C.

Local authorities have guided local residents in applying measures to ensure their health, and keep their plants and animals warm, especially livestock.

Despite the unfavourable weather, the border guard forces in northern border localities still maintain regular border patrols to prevent those crossing the border illegally and trying to avoid quarantine./.

Two more arrested for facilitating illegal entry of COVID-19 patient No. 1,440

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Truong Chi Tai (left) is arrested


Police in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang said on January 9 that they have arrested two other men to further investigate their role in the illegal entry of COVID-19 patient No. 1,440.

The men are 30-year-old Truong Chi Tai and 31-year-old Le Van Dinh, both from An Giang.

Previously, 42-year-old Phan Phi Hung, 26-year-old Pham Thanh Hap, and 32-year-old Trang Van Ut, all from An Giang, were detained for the same charge.

According to preliminary investigation results, Hung set up links with people at home and abroad, including Hap, Ut, Tai, and Dinh, in an effort to illegally brought to Vietnam a 33-year-old man, who was later defined as patient No. 1,440, and eight others. Four out of the nine illegal immigrants tested positive for the coronavirus, patients No. 1,440, 1,451, 1,452 and 1,453.

On December 23, 2020, Hung received a phone call from Cambodia informing the arrival in Vietnam of the nine people in early morning the next day for further travelling to Chau Doc and Ho Chi Minh City.

Hung, in turn, called to inform Tai, Dinh, Hap, and Ut and told Ut to find a 7-seat car to carry the group.

After the group illegally entered Vietnam, Tai and Dinh picked them up from a river wharf, then drove them to Hap’s house. The investigation team also found that Tai and Dinh also played a role in guarding the road to avoid the detection of competent forces.

The case is under further investigation./.

One imported COVID-19 case recorded on January 10

A 24-year-old Vietnamese woman returning from Japan was the only COVID-19 case recorded in Vietnam over the last 24 hours, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control reported on January 10 evening.

The new case brought the national tally of COVID-19 to 1,514.

The new patient arrived at Tho Xuan airport in the central province of Thanh Hoa on January 8 and was immediately put into quarantine in the locality.

Among patients under treatment, nine have tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 once, eight twice and eight thrice. The fatalities remain at 35.

A total of 17,634 people who had close contact with COVID-19 patients or arrived from pandemic-affected regions are staying in quarantine nationwide./.

Trial against defendants in Phu Tho ethanol case set for January 22

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Defedant Dinh La Thang

The Hanoi People’s Court has decided to open a first-instance trial on January 22 against 12 defendants on the charge of violating regulations on investment in construction works, causing serious consequences at a petrochemical and bio-fuel plant project in the northern province of Phu Tho.

The trial is scheduled to last for 10 days, with the board of judges consisting of two judges and three people's jurors.

The 12 defendants include Dinh La Thang, former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam); Trinh Xuan Thanh, former Chairman and General Director of the PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Corporation (PVC); Vu Thanh Ha, former General Director of the PetroVietnam Petrochemical and Bio-Fuel JSC (PVB); and Do Van Hong, Chairman of the Board of Directors and General Director of the Kinh Bac Petroleum Construction and Investment JSC.

Thanh is prosecuted for violating State regulations on investment in construction works, causing severe consequences under Article 224, clause 3 of the 2015 Penal Code, and for abusing position and power while performing duties under Article 356, clause 3 of the 2015 Penal Code. Meanwhile, Hong is charged for abusing position and power while performing duties.

The ten remaining defendants are charged for violating State regulations on investment in construction works, causing severe consequences.

According to the indictment, Thang signed a resolution to approve the investment in the project in October 2007. With Thanh’s support, PVC/Alfa Laval/Delta-T joint contractors, who had no previous experience in carrying out ethanol projects, were assigned to be in charge of the project.

As a result, the project was continuously lagged behind schedule and stopped in March 2013 with no construction items done.

Wrongdoings of the defendants were said to cause a loss of more than 543 billion VND (23.49 million USD) for PVB./.

Seminar seeks ways to improve air quality

How to improve air quality was the main topic of a seminar held in Hanoi on January 9 within the framework of a clean air project supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Dr. Hoang Duong Tung, Chairman of the Vietnam Clean Air Partnership, suggested changing the behavior of vehicle drivers, improving the quality of vehicle emission systems and developing public transport means.

Associate Prof. Nghiem Trung Dung, former Director of the School of Environmental Science and Technology under the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, called for joint efforts of the entire society in this regard and the observance of regulations on environmental protection.

Air quality in the capital city of Hanoi fell to dangerous levels in the first week of the New Year, particularly in inner city areas, according to the Department of Natural Resurces and Environment.

The air quality index (AQI) figures have been reported to the municipal People's Committee who are working with relevant agencies to identify the causes of the pollution and for measures to improve air quality.

Results from 35 air quality monitoring stations in the city showed that the AQI tended to increase from January 1, and rose sharply up on the morning of January 5, hit the peak warning level of 5/6.

From December 29 to December 31, 2020, most of the stations showed that the AQI was good or medium level.

However, from January 1, 2021, the air quality tended to drop sharply, some locations including the Environmental Protection Department, the People's Committee of Minh Khai Ward, and the French Embassy.

According to the city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, this is due to the intensification of the northeast monsoon, influence of cold air with strong winds which promoted a diffusion of pollutants, so the air quality was kept at good and medium levels in period from December 29 to 31, 2020.

However, when the cold air decreased with low wind speeds and the temperature dropped at night, dense fog formed, hindering the diffusion of pollution, causing pollution.

Additionally, the pollutants caused by traffic, construction and industrial production in the inner city, and neighbouring provinces accumulated.

The increases of traffic activities after the New Year holiday, of garbage stagnation, spontaneous burning of waste causing environmental pollution, year-end production to supply goods during the Lunar New Year, were also listed as causes of pollution emissions./.

Digitalisation adds to visitor experience: Deputy PM

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Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam speaks at the conference on January 8


Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has asked the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to speed up digitalisation throughout the sector to provide a better experience to visitors, along with enhancing communications work and promotions for cultural, sports, and tourism events.

Attending a conference on carrying out the ministry’s missions in 2021 on January 8, Dam said it should capitalise on information technology (IT) to tackle lingering issues.

“For example, if we don’t have tour guides that are able to speak less-common languages, we should introduce technologies such as voice-over and foreign-language translation systems for introducing tourist attractions,” he said.

He took the occasion to speak highly of the tourism sector, saying it saw impressive progress in growth and was among the fastest-growing in the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dam expressed the hope that the ministry will continue its efforts to contribute to developing Vietnam in a faster and more sustainable fashion, and make culture an important foundation and resource for development.

This year, the ministry will carry out flexible and uniform policies to recover domestic tourism and build plans to welcome international visitors after the pandemic is fully brought under control. It aims to cater to 80 million domestic travellers and earn 337 trillion VND (14.57 billion USD) in tourism revenue.

Involved agencies are preparing for the organisation of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) and the 11th ASEAN Para Games in Vietnam, and participation at the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, the sixth Asian Beach Games in China, and many other regional and international sporting events.

Cultural and art activities will be promoted in tandem with the preservation of traditional culture.

COVID-19 caused a range of problems for many companies and household businesses and also affected incomes, since many cultural and tourism events were cancelled. It also impacted on athletes’ training and competition, particularly the Olympic and Paralympic teams./.

Singapore: PM receives COVID-19 vaccine as nationwide vaccination drive begins

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on January 8, at the start of a nationwide drive to vaccinate staff across various public healthcare institutions. 

The PM, the first member of Singapore's Cabinet to get the shot, was at SGH to observe the begin of inoculations for healthcare workers, and said he took the opportunity to get his own vaccine.

Believing the vaccine is effective and important, the PM hopes Singaporeans will take it up as it is rolled out. 

Singapore received its first shipment of vaccines on Dec 21, making it the first Asian country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech product.

Earlier, a small-scale test run took place at the country’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases, where 40 employees received their jabs on December 30, 2020.

Vaccinations for the elderly and those at greater risk of severe COVID-19 will start in February, beginning with seniors aged 70 and above. Vaccinations will be free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the Government has ordered employers to provide quarantine spaces and bear the cost of administering COVID-19 vaccines as well as screenings for their foreign labourers.

In Thailand, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has planned to set up field hospitals in the capital that can accomodate 1,700 COVID-19 patients./.

PM urges Hoa Binh province to tap potential for development

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on January 10 asked the northern mountainous province of Hoa Binh to bring into full play its favourable geological location as the gateway to Hanoi capital city to boost its development.

At a working with key provincial leaders as part of his working trip to Hoa Binh, PM Phuc said the province should better tap its potential and strengths in tourism and commerce.

At the same time, greater efforts are needed to preserve and promote the traditional culture of local ethnic minority groups, he said.

The government leader lauded Hoa Binh for its performance in development amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with budget collection up 24 percent year-on-year and a high forest coverage, as well as achievements in investment attraction and new-style rural area building.

Pointing out limitations in economic structure, tourism, planning, administrative reform and investment environment, the PM said the province should optimise resources for development, especially its land and mines.

Hoa Binh needs to promptly chart a development planning scheme for 2021-2030 with a vision towards 2050, along with the planning of land, industrial parks and services, the leader said.

PM urges Hoa Binh province to tap potential for development hinh anh 2
PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc asks Hoa Binh and the Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) to ensure safety of the expanded Hoa Binh hydropower plant project. (Photo: VNA)
Regarding the construction of the expanded Hoa Binh hydropower plant that began the same day, he asked Hoa Binh and the Vietnam Electricty Group (EVN) – the main investor – to ensure the safety of the project, especially transport safety./.

Cold weather intensified in northern, north central regions

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People gather around a fire for warm on a winter day


A new cold spell, which moved south on January 10, is expected to impact northern provinces from the evening on the day, with the north and central regions maintaining low temperatures.

The northern region and north central provinces from Thanh Hoa to Thua Thien-Hue are in the grip of biting cold, with the temperature dropping to 7-10 degrees Celsius at the lowest and even plunged to below 0 degree Celcius in mountainous areas.

Throughout January 10, provinces and cities from Ha Tinh to Khanh Hoa are forecast to witness rain, while wind is gathering strength to reach level three and four in the inland north and central regions.

At sea, due to the intensified cold spell, from the evening of January 10, strong wind and waves are predicted for many areas.

In the Gulf of Tonkin, the wind speed will gradually increase to level 6-7 with gust reaching level 8-9, and waves will be 2-3m high./.

Ba Na ethnic community celebrates new crop

Celebrating a new harvest season is one of the biggest events of the year for the Ba Na ethnic minority group in the Central Highlands region.

The event includes a ceremony to thank heaven and earth, then festive activities to entertain the community.

A Ngui, the culture officer in Kbang District’s Culture, Sports and Information Centre, said this period of the year is the right moment for the community to celebrate the new rice crop.

When the elders in the villages see the rice is mature and has turned yellow, they will choose a date and inform the villagers to prepare for the ceremony.

They prepare offerings and decorations, which include a pig of some 90-100kg and two chickens.

According to local customs, each family should bring one chicken and one jar of wine, as well as some newly made com (sticky young rice flakes).

Ba Na people can host the ceremony as a family or with the whole village in the yard of the communal house.

The oldest man of the village assigns the middle-aged men to prepare the altar while women arrange jars of wine and bring water to the site.

Some other women make sticky rice flakes right at the site, while the oldest man then prays for the rivers, mountains and nature.

“Dear all gods, God of Rice, God of River, God of Mountain, today we host a ceremony to celebrate the new crop, we would like to invite all of you here to drink, to eat and share happiness with us…,” he would say. “Please bless us with good health and good crops this and next year…”

Women process rice flakes while men kill a chicken and put its blood on the bamboo altar.

"They then will use take the bamboo sticks with chicken blood to the forest, then home to lead the soul of rice to their home," A Ngui said.

All young people in the village would then shout out loud, beat on drums, gongs, and dance around the altar.

Then they visit each home to congratulate, eat young rice and drink wine./.

Minister urges quick building of project on natural forest protection

The forestry sector should take swift action to build a project on zoning off and protecting natural forests in the time to come, said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong.

Cuong made his request at the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VAF)’s conference held in Hanoi on January 6 to review its performance last year and launch key tasks for 2021.

The minister pointed out three big challenges facing the sector in 2020, which were COVID-19-caused disruption to commodity supply chains; forest fires and climate change-inflicted storms and floods; and fierce global trade competition.

There have been several policies issued regarding the zoning off and protection activities, he said, adding that they have shortcomings, thus remaining ineffective in giving proper encouragement to people involved.

He asked the VAF to soon complete a project initiated by the Prime Minister on planting 1 billion trees in the 2021 – 2025 period, review the 10-year operation of the fund for forest protection and development, and complete a pilot project on forest leasing for herbal farming.

According to VAF Deputy Director Pham Van Dien, in 2021, the sector will step up the protection, development, and effective and sustainable use of existing forests to meet requirements for natural disaster mitigation, ecosystem conservation, and climate change adaptation.

It will also promote the productivity, quality and value of each kind of forests, particularly production forests, thus creating jobs, increasing incomes, alleviating poverty, and improving livelihoods for people involved. The work will be carried out in association with the building of new-style rural areas and the protection of security, defence and social order.

National forest coverage will be kept at 42 percent, while the area of damaged forests will be cut by at least 20 percent against last year.

Goals are set to plant 230,000 ha of concentrated forests, zone off for recovering 150,000 ha, plant 200 million trees, and earn 14 billion USD from forestry product exports./.

Flower growers pin hopes on Tet harvest

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and abnormal weather patterns, flower growers in the capital Hanoi still hold high hopes for a bumper harvest for the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday.

Growers at the Tay Tuu flower village are busy taking care of trees in the hope they will bloom at the right time for the Tet market.

Work on the Tet harvest started three months ago. With investment of 10 - 15 million VND, the owner of this daisy garden expects to earn 40 - 50 million VND.

With COVID-19 impacting the socio-economic situation, flower growers just want a stable price and a bumper harvest to earn some money at Tet./.

Interchange connecting Belt Road No. 3,Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway inaugurated

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on January 9 cut the ribbon to put the interchange connecting Belt Road No 3 and the Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway into operations.

The interchange, located in the districts of Long Bien and Gia Lam, has two routes: a 1.5km stretch linking Long Bien-Thach Ban with the expressway, and another 620m stretch connecting Belt Road No 3 and the expressway.

The project is expected to shorten travel times on the route and fully exploit the investment efficiency of Belt Road No 3, the Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway and Co Linh Road.

They will help ease traffic congestion and boost the city’s socio-economic development.

The project, with investment of more than 402 billion VND (17.5 million USD), was approved in June 2020 and completed two months earlier than scheduled./.

Outstanding students at international Olympiads honoured

 

Vietnamese winners at international Olympiads in 2020 have been honoured at a ceremony held by the Ministry of Education and Training in Hanoi on January 8.

According to the organising board, over recent years, the education sector has actively implemented fundamental and comprehensive education and training renovations, including effectively implementing its selection of excellent students at the national level to participate in regional and international Olympiad competitions.

In the 2016-2020 period, the Ministry of Education and Training sent many delegations of Vietnamese students to participate in the competitions, garnering 170 awards, including: 54 gold medals, 68 silver medals, 40 bronze medals, and eight certificates of merit.

In 2020, in the context of the complicated development of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, Vietnamese teams competed in online international Olympiads in mathematics, chemistry, biology, informatics, and the Asia-Pacific Informatics Olympiad. All 24 students of the five national teams to the competitions brought home nine golds, eight silvers, five bronzes and two certificates of merit.

Addressing the event, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc encouraged them to study hard to improve themselves and pursue the career they love.

Honouring the winners with the State President’s Labour Order and the Prime Minister’s Certificate of Merit, Phuc said their results in the international competitions have elevated Vietnam’s image globally.

The Party and State always introduce appropriate policies to encourage young talents to bring into full play their expertise and creativity, affirmed the Prime Minister./.

Free shelter for kidney failure patients in Vĩnh Long

A kindhearted couple in the Mekong Delta province of Vĩnh Long has run a free shelter for kidney dialysis patients and their relatives for more than two years, sharing their financial burden and giving them a second home.

As they need kidney dialysis once every two days, the patients who live far from the hospital feel lucky to be offered accommodation at a housing complex in Bình Minh Town, Vĩnh Long Province owned by Trần Văn Hiền and Nguyễn Thị Kim Hồng.

The 300sq.m house has three separate areas, two for beds where the patients rest and one for a common space where families of kidney dialysis patients cook, eat and do daily activities together.

Trần Văn Hiền, the house owner, said after visiting the hospital, he and his wife witnessed many kidney dialysis patients who were in pain forced to rest in the hospital’s lobby.

The kidney dialysis patients and their families face dual financial and health burdens. They not only run out of money but their health deteriorates after many times on dialysis and travelling back and forth from home to the hospital, he said.

“My wife and I decided to buy a land lot and build a house for kidney dialysis patients and the homeless elderly,” he said.

“Every day, we come to visit them, bring them food and take care of them.”

The patients no longer have to travel by themselves to the hospital for daily kidney dialysis because Hiền contacts local drivers to offer free rides to Cần Thơ City’s Central Hospital.

At first, they spent their own money to maintain the house, but then their friends lent a hand, he said.

“We only hope we have enough sources to maintain the house so that it will continue to be the second home for the patients during their difficult time of fighting illness.”

Returning from the hospital after her husband's four-hour dialysis session, Nguyễn Thị Bé, 72 years old, said they had been struggling with the illness for 10 years and were financially and physically exhausted.

“Last year we were lucky to be offered accommodation here. Living here is comfortable, like being at home. Everything from accommodation and food is free. We are not only offered accommodation but more importantly, we have other people who are in the same circumstances sharing with us. In spite of the illness and feeling tired, the patients think positively thanks to the sympathy,” Bé said.

Nguyễn Thị Kim Hồng, Hiền’s wife, goes to the market every day to buy food and cook for the patients.

“Everyone talks to each other and cooks together like a family,” she said.

Võ Thị Diễn, 63 years old, a patient, said: “From strangers, we have become close friends after a few months living here. In difficulties, we have been saved and had a chance to meet each other. This house has become our second home where healthy people help sick ones. Whenever anyone has a problem, we encourage and help each other.”

“In spite of our efforts, we still feel heartbroken each time hearing about someone who could not survive the illness," Hiền said.

“Seven people living here could not continue their journey. Some of them did not have relatives by their sides when they passed away. Me, my wife and everyone living in the house regard ourselves as their relatives to organise the funerals.”

“I just hope I can do more for the patients so that they feel optimistic and overcome the pain,” he said. 

Gia Lai military helps underprivileged families before Tết

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An underprivileged family in Gia Lai Province stands in front of a house being built for them with the local military forces’ assistance.

Many underprivileged families in Gia Lai Province have received new houses to enjoy the coming Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday thanks to help from local military forces.

Ksor Muon, soldier of Ayun Pa Town’s Military Command, said his family are busy moving into their new house.

Muon has served in the local army for nearly 20 years. He had to stay with his parents-in-law in a dilapidated temporary house in Chư Bang village, Krông Pa District.

His family of four were facing very difficult circumstances. Muon suffered with hepatitis and required long-term treatment, while his son had a congenital heart defect.

In mid-2020, sympathising with the difficult situation of his family, the Military Command of Gia Lai Province provided funds and soldiers of the Ayun Pa Town Military Command to help build a house for his family.

On the day of receiving the new house, his family was happy and all local villagers were excited to share the joy of new shelter with him.

Many neighbours brought wine, tea, chicken, and rice to congratulate his family on having a new home to celebrate Tết.

Muon said in tears: "I have never dreamed of having my own house to live in, let alone a permanent house.”

“The local military command helped my family to have a new home, I hope to repay their generosity with hard work and helping people.”

Siu Hlim, a 70-year-old veteran living in Bua Village, Đức Cơ District, and his family were also happy to receive a new house, funded by Colonel Lê Kim Giàu, Commander of the Gia Lai Province Military Command, and more than 300 workdays of provincial soldiers.

These are two out of five underprivileged families that have received houses thanks to the provincial Military Command’s assistance in 2020.

Also in 2020, units under the provincial Military Command helped 29 households by providing animals, seedlings, planting hundreds of cashew and coffee plants, as well as building roads.

In addition, the soldiers also helped ethnic minorities plant more than 2,000 trees and harvest five hectares of crops.

Handling the damage caused by recent storms, more than 1,600 soldiers were sent to help local people repair 100 houses, two schools, three communal houses, and 12 broken electric posts.

Colonel Lê Tuấn Hiền, Deputy Secretary of Gia Lai Provincial Military Command, said besides coordinating with the local authorities to ensure security and social order, the military units plan to celebrate Tết with local people. 

Hà Nội makes efforts to eradicate honeycomb charcoal this year

The capital city is making efforts to completely eliminate the use of honeycomb charcoal for both domestic and commercial purposes this year, aiming to reduce the worsening air pollution.

The use of honeycomb briquette stoves in Hà Nội has decreased sharply. Many areas have completely eliminated this type of stove.

According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, there were still more than 11,080 of them as of the third quarter of 2020.

Over 43,410 stoves have been removed, a decrease of 79.66 per cent compared to 2017.

The areas with the highest reduction rates are Hoàn Kiếm, Thạch Thất and Sóc Sơn districts.

Meanwhile, five districts still have the highest number of charcoal stoves including Hoàng Mai, Hai Bà Trưng, Ba Đình, Đống Đa and Đan Phượng, respectively.

A recent survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Department at ten coal and honeycomb charcoal manufacturers in Tây Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng and Thanh Xuân districts showed the amount of coal decreased sharply from September to November, 2020 with an average output of less than 1,000 charcoal bricks per day in each workshop.

The establishments have converted and diversified into other businesses.

On streets in Hoàn Kiếm District such as Hàng Bài, Hàng Bông, Bà Triệu, Nam Ngư and Quán Sứ there are no longer honeycomb briquette stoves in use.

People have completely eliminated the use of charcoal stoves and switched to gas and electric cookers, vietnamplus.vn reported.

Nguyễn Mạnh Đức, owner of a food stall on Hàng Bồ Street, said he has switched to a different type of cooker instead of a honeycomb briquette stove to ensure the safety of customers and protect his own health after listening the local authorities' reports about the harmful effects of honeycomb.

Every day people burn more than 500 tonnes of charcoal, which emit 1,870 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the air a day, according to the environmental protection division.

Dealing with this situation, the People's Committee of Hà Nội issued a directive dated October 30, 2019 with the target that all localities stop the use of honeycomb briquette stoves by the end of 2020 for both domestic and commercial purposes.

And from January 1, 2021, any individual or commercial business caught using such briquettes will be fined according to the Governmental decree on administrative penalties for environmental protection.

However, in reality, in some areas such as Hà Đông, Long Biên, Tây Hồ, Hoàng Mai and Đống Đa districts, there are still many people using honeycomb charcoal stoves for business and daily life, the newspaper reported.

This stove is mostly used by small business households and low-income people.

One of the reasons for the use of this type of stove is the low cost of charcoal briquettes, which are only about VNĐ3,000 (US$0.13) each.

Nguyễn Thị Thu, owner of food stall on the sidewalk in Long Biên District, said: “I know the city has a policy to eliminate the honeycomb briquette stove because of environmental pollution, but my family has not yet been able to buy a gas or electric stove. And it's not easy to install an electric cooker in my stall so I still use honeycomb charcoal."

Due to family circumstances and profits, many households continue to use the charcoal briquette stoves.

According to the analysis of specialised agencies, the charcoal also generates dust, including PM2.5 dust and other emissions such as CO2, CO, SO2, and PAHs, affecting people' health.

Communication documents about the harmful effects of honeycomb charcoal have been posted at many public places, on streets and markets, in order to raise awareness and encourage people to stop us charcoal briquette.

Localities are also strengthening propaganda and giving supportive policies for people to switch to using environmentally friendly cookers and support charcoal briquette manufacturers in converting to other forms of business. 

Tighter COVID-19 prevention measures needed during Tết holiday

The Ministry of Health has called for tighter measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure health and safety during the upcoming Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, with the focus on strict management of foreign entries.

In a new directive issued over the weekend, the health ministry requested local health departments to intensify supervision of entry conditions and procedures, and medical quarantine to detect and treat any infections to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

The departments should take actions to increase the responsibility and awareness of each medical worker in disease prevention and control, carry out disease prevention plans and scenarios, and assign tasks for individuals and units in case any infection is detected.

They were also asked to instruct district and commune health units to work with local authorities and the police to monitor those under quarantine at civil facilities and at home, and those who have completed their time at concentrated quarantine establishments.

The ministry asked the local health departments to intensify inspections over disease prevention and control, and allocate personnel to be on duty around the clock during Tết, the longest and biggest annual festival in Việt Nam which will fall in the middle of February, with a large number of Vietnamese overseas wanting to return home.

It is also necessary to work with the media to encourage the public to follow the ministry’s measures to prevent winter-spring diseases as well as its 5K (in Vietnamese) message: Khẩu trang (facemask) – Khử khuẩn (disinfection) – Khoảng cách (distance) – Không tụ tập (no gathering) – Khai báo y tế (health declaration).

Transport ministry committed to completion of Cát Linh-Hà Đông metro project in March

Hà Nội’s first metro project, the long-delayed Cát Linh-Hà Đông urban railway project, is scheduled to be completed on March 31, said Nguyễn Khánh Tùng, Vice Director of the project’s Management Board.

At a meeting in Hà Nội on Thursday, he explained that the project had failed to be finished on schedule due to various difficulties, including the impact from COVID-19 which resulted in Chinese technicians and equipment unable to get into Việt Nam.

The trial run of the project completed in December 2020 with more than 70,000km of operations and thousands of train trips tested, enabling the system to operate commercially, said Minister of Transport Nguyễn Văn Thể at the meeting.

He added that Hà Nội was ready to receive and run the project, asking the Management Board to give priority to completing it.

Running from Cát Linh in the inner district of Ba Đình to the outlying district of Hà Đông, the railway, funded with Chinese ODA, has a total investment capital of approximately US$886 million after several delays and cost overruns.

The system is designed to have a main elevated line of more than 13km, 12 stations, and 13 trains. Each train, whose designed speed reaches 80 km per hour, has four carriages capable of carrying more than 900 passengers.

A 20-day whole-system test run has ended on December 31, 2020.

5,700 trips have been successfully conducted, but the full assessment including the verdict from an independent French consultant venture will not be available until January 15-20. 

PM assigns funding to rebuild houses in central VN

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has decided to allocate VNĐ89.11 billion (US$3.86 million) sourced from Central Budget reserves for five central provinces hit hard by natural disasters in October to help address housing damage.

The beneficiaries consist of Nghệ An (VNĐ1.26 billion), Hà Tĩnh (VNĐ8.43 billion), Quảng Bình (VNĐ4.89 billion), Quảng Nam (VNĐ69.81 billion), and Bình Định (VNĐ4.72 billion).

The support is provided under the Government’s Resolution No 165/NQ-CP, issued on November 5 last year, on financial aid for some central and Central Highlands localities to tackle housing damage caused by natural disasters in October.

In the decision, the PM assigned the People’s Committees of the provinces to allocate funding from the central budget, their local budgets, and other legal financial sources in line with regulations.

They were also asked to ensure the support is used in a timely, effective, and transparent manner and benefits the targeted groups while preventing wrongdoings and strictly handling violations.

Back-to-back storms and prolonged flooding exacted a devastating toll on the central and Central Highlands regions in October.

Natural disasters claimed 280 lives and caused total losses of approximately VNĐ29.9 trillion in Việt Nam from the beginning of 2020 to mid-November, according to a report by the National Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control.

They also injured 856 people and left 66 people missing. Torrential rain, floods, and landslides destroyed 3,420 houses, damaged over 327,700, and submerged nearly 509,800, affecting the livelihoods of millions of people.

Farmer brings Bầu Mây pepper abroad

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Lâm Ngọc Nhâm takes care of the pepper garden.

After leaving his hometown in the northern mountainous province of Tuyên Quang, Lâm Ngọc Nhâm settled in Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu Province and established Bầu Mây Tourism Agriculture Trade Co-operative, a pepper farm that has enriched his family.

The co-operative in Xuyên Mộc District’s Hòa Hiệp Commune began growing 15ha of pepper under global good agricultural practices (GobalGAP) standards in 2015 and received GobalGAP certification four years later.

Nhâm said: “I have gone through many hardships to start a business in a strange land but with the desire and perseverance, have built Bầu Mây co-operative to become a supplier of pepper to high-quality demanding markets such as Japan, Dubai and the US.”

“We have grown many types of trees such as coffee, cashew, rambutan, durian, longan and jackfruit. But the yield is not high while the price is unstable," he said.

“Therefore, I am always thinking about how to find a plant, bringing stability for the family’s economy," he added.

He found that Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu Province has a stable climate and suitable soil for pepper. He decided to plant many different varieties of pepper in his family’s garden.

“I was fortunate to discover a suitable variety of pepper in the garden, every year it produces high yield and develops well.”

He said this pepper variety has a taproot 10 times bigger than other varieties, is drought-resistant, has good disease resistance, and the yield reaches 10-12 tonnes per hectare.

In 2014, he started to expand the cultivation of this pepper variety.

He regularly visited the district’s Farmers' Association and the Southern Institute of Agricultural Sciences to learn experiences, participated in training courses on agricultural extension, and applied advanced technology.

In 2015, he named this variety Bầu Mây pepper and registered for a trademark at the National Office of Intellectual Property of Việt Nam.

With GobalGAP-quality pepper, Bầu Mây has developed traceability stamps for its pepper and pepper products to boost sales at home and abroad.

Last year the co-operative exported more than 100 tonnes of pepper and pepper products to many markets such as the EU, Japan, South Korea, China and the US.

The cultivation of pepper under GlobalGAP standards with traceability stamps have improved the competitiveness of the co-operative’s pepper products at home and abroad.

Bầu Mây now grows more than 30ha of pepper and produces about 200 tonnes of pepper and pepper products a year.

Nhâm won the second prize of the province’s Innovation Entrepreneurship Contest in 2017 for his initiative 'Controlling pepper flowering as desired'.

This solution has helped farmers adjust the flowering pepper as desired and combat diseases in the rainy season, limit fungi harmful to pepper, prevent erosion and soil degradation and at the same time, save irrigation water and reduce evaporation in the dry season, helping increase yield and the quality of pepper.

In addition, his model of planting pepper intercropped with củ mài (a tree that grows wildly in mountainous regions) has helped the pepper trees grow sustainably.

"In 2019, I planted 200 hectares of củ mài in alternating planting pepper, with the yield of 10,000 tonnes, earning billions of đồng," said Nhâm.

He also supported 10 local households to develop pepper productivity by providing fertiliser, seedlings and instructed them on technology.

Source: VNA/VNN/VNS/SGGP/VOV/NDO/Dtinews/SGT/VIR