By Duong Quang – Translated by Kim Khanh
|LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 25: Lorraine Harvey, an in home care worker, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Rudolfo Garcia at a clinic at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles on February 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. African Americans and Latinos comprise a majority of the South LA community and are dying of COVID-19 at a rate significantly higher than whites. Vaccine equity has also lagged in South Los Angeles relative to some more wealthy areas. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)|
Brazil hit 250,000 fatalities — the second-highest national death toll after the US — while the worldwide vaccine campaign received the royal endorsement of Queen Elizabeth II, 94, who urged people not to be wary of the injection.
President Joe Biden declared the US rollout is now “weeks ahead of schedule” as he celebrated 50 million vaccines administered since he took office on January 20, but he warned Americans to keep masking up.
“We’re moving in the right direction despite the mess we inherited,” Biden said, referring to the program under his predecessor Donald Trump.
The United States is the world’s hardest-hit country, with coronavirus deaths crossing the 500,000 mark earlier this week.
Biden said that there would be “enough supply” for all adult Americans by the end of July.
The EU announced Thursday it expected to vaccinate 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer, after months of problems and friction.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said fully vaccinating just under three-quarters of adults by late summer was a “goal that we’re confident with.”
But in Brazil, the grim quarter-million deaths milestone came one year after the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in the country, which is struggling with severe vaccine shortages and a devastating second wave.
– Mass graves –
The coronavirus has hit especially hard in Brazil’s impoverished “favelas,” among indigenous communities and in the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus, where there have been haunting scenes of mass graves and patients suffocating to death with no oxygen.
President Jair Bolsonaro has flouted expert advice on managing the pandemic, railing against lockdowns and face masks and instead touting the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, despite studies showing it is ineffective against Covid-19.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth said in a video message Thursday that her coronavirus jab “didn’t hurt at all” and encouraged those reluctant about receiving the vaccine to “think about other people.”
The monarch was vaccinated along with her husband Prince Philip in January.
In total, 2,500,172 deaths and 112,618,488 cases have been reported, with almost half of the fatalities occurring in just five countries: the United States, Brazil, Mexico, India and Britain, according to an AFP count based on official figures.
Vaccine rollouts have been patchy so far, and most of the 217 million vaccine doses administered globally have gone to wealthier countries.
In China, where the virus first emerged in late 2019, the national drug authority approved two more vaccines made by domestic companies for public use, bringing the number of Chinese vaccines to four.
Two Cuban vaccines will undergo advanced clinical trials from March after they reportedly elicited a “powerful immune response” in early tests, one of the scientists in charge of the project said Thursday.
– Focus on long-term symptoms –
In further vaccine developments, frozen vials of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine may be stored at temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers for up to two weeks, the US Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.
The move loosens a previous requirement that the vaccine should be stored at ultra-low temperatures, between -112 and -76 degrees Fahrenheit (-80 to -60 degrees Celsius).
The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, urged governments to try to better understand the long-term consequences of coronavirus on some sufferers who have prolonged symptoms such as tiredness, brain fog, and cardiac and neurological disorders.
“It’s a clear priority for WHO, and of the utmost importance. It should be for every health authority,” said Hans Kluge, regional director for WHO Europe.
Britain, which has forged ahead with its vaccine drive, said Thursday it was lowering its alert level from the highest tier, citing a dip in cases.
In France, hopes of a return to normal on the sports front were dashed after more than a dozen rugby players and staff tested positive, forcing Sunday’s Six Nations match against Scotland to be scrapped.
In another sign of the toll the pandemic is taking on populations, the number of babies born in France in January also fell by 13 percent, the biggest drop in 45 years.
And in Japan, organisers of the delayed Olympic torch relay said fans could line the route when it kicks off next month, but cheering is strictly banned and social distancing will be enforced.
Some sex workers in Bangladesh’s largest brothel started getting their vaccines, a health official said Thursday.
Beauty, 40, who goes by one name, said she was initially hesitant about getting the shot.
“But the health officials reassured us. Now we understand it is important as we meet many people every day,” she said.
Syria will start giving coronavirus vaccines to its healthcare workers across the war-ravaged country from next week.
Oxfam distributing hygiene kits to people in Yemen amid the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Wael Algadi
Oxfam today called for a package of nearly $160 billion in immediate debt cancellation and aid to fund a Global Public Health Plan and Emergency Response and help prevent millions of deaths as a result of the coronavirus.The five-point plan of this Global Public Health Plan and Emergency Response would enable poor countries to take action to prevent the spread of the disease and build up the capacity of health systems to care for those affected.
The pandemic has caused widespread suffering in rich countries, overwhelming some of the best healthcare systems in the world. However, with the disease now spreading to many poor countries where high levels of poverty and inequality threaten to accelerate the disease, the public health challenges are even greater. Nearly three billion people across the developing world do not have access to clean water, while millions more do not have access to adequate healthcare and live in crowded slums or refugee camps where social isolation is impossible. As women make up 70 per cent of health workers and carry out most unpaid care work, it will hit them the hardest.
Jose Maria Vera, Oxfam International Interim executive director, said that in Mali there are three ventilators per million people. In Zambia, there is one doctor for 10,000 people. “We know from Oxfam’s experience of fighting Ebola that with rapid action, this disease can be stalled and its catastrophic impact stopped. But we must act now and, on a scale never seen before,” he said. “Without urgent, ambitious, and historic action, we could easily see the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II.”
The Imperial College London estimates that in the absence of intervention, the coronavirus could have led to 40 million deaths in the coming year. Oxfam calculates that doubling the health spending of the 85 poorest countries, home to nearly half of the world’s population, would cost $159.5 billion. This is less than 10 per cent of the US fiscal stimulus to fight coronavirus. While some donor institutions have begun to increase funding, the scale is not anywhere near the immense size of the challenge.
Oxfam is working with local partners, ministries of heath, and key UN agencies in 65 countries to respond to the crisis and help save lives. In Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh where over 855,000 Rohingya are living in makeshift camps, Oxfam is already scaling up preventive measures like soap distribution and handwashing stations at communal facilities to help 70,000 refugees. In Zaatari camp, Jordan – the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world – Oxfam has already started teaching hygiene and hand washing awareness for 2,000 children and aims to reach 78,000 people with water, hygiene,and sanitation. In Burkina Faso, which holds a population of 780,000 internally displaced persons (IDP), Oxfam is currently working in some of the largest IDP areas ensuring that both host communities and displaced people have access to safe, clean water. To meet the desperate humanitarian need now emerging, all governments must step up and fully fund the UN Global Humanitarian Response plan.
Oxfam is calling for the G20 and other national governments to tackle the virus head on by agreeing on an ambitious Global Public Health Plan and Emergency Response. The five-point plan calls for:
- Huge investment in prevention. Public health promotion, community engagement, access for humanitarian workers and provision of clean water and sanitation, especially handwashing;
- 10 million new paid and protected health workers, together with urgent funding and equipment for local responders and humanitarians already on the ground;
- Healthcare must be free. All fees for health should be removed, and free testing and treatment delivered;
- Governments must requisition all private facilities. Governments must requisition all healthcare capacity in their countries, ensuring that all facilities, private and public, are directed towards fighting this virus and meeting all other essential healthcare needs;
- Vaccines and treatments must be a global public good. A global agreement must be reached that vaccines and treatments, when ready, will be made rapidly available to everyone who needs it, free of charge. The profits of pharmaceutical corporations cannot be put ahead of the future of humanity.
Vera added “It is understandable that national leaders are focused on helping their own citizens, but G20 leaders must also find the space for supporting poor nations too. We can only beat this pandemic if we act in solidarity with every country and for every person. No one is safe until we are all safe.”
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc attended the G20 emergency video summit on March 26. Vietnam was invited to this year’s summit as the current ASEAN Chair.
In the spirit of global and regional solidarity, co-operation, and co-ordination, affirming Vietnam’s determination and commitment to combating COVID-19, the Vietnamese government offers $200,000 in medical aid to help Laos and Cambodia fight the coronavirus.
HCM CITY — The Ministry of Transport has urged localities in the southeast region to speed up major transport projects by diversifying the sources of capital over the next five years.
Speaking at a recent online meeting, Nguyễn Văn Thể, Minister of Transport, said: “A lack of regional connectivity and overloaded roads at major gateways remains an issue in the region.”
Thể has urged localities in the region to speed up implementation of major projects in the region in the 2021-2025 period, with priority given to the expansion of HCM City – Long Thành – Dầu Giây expressway, and construction of Bến Lức – Long Thành expressway, Biên Hòa – Vũng Tàu expressway, HCM City – Mộc Bài, and Ring Roads 2 and 3.
Other projects include construction of the Long Thành – Thủ Thiêm light railway connecting HCM City to the new Long Thành airport, and the expansion of Provincial Road 25C from HCM City to Đồng Nai Province.
Recently, PM Nguyễn Xuân Phúc approved the Ministry of Transport’s proposal to give HCM City the authority to approve investment decisions for the HCM City-Mộc Bài Expressway.
The 53.5km-long expressway will link Ring Road No 3 in HCM City’s Hóc Môn District with Mộc Bài International Border Gate between Việt Nam and Cambodia in Tây Ninh Province.
The expressway project will be divided into two investment phases. Its total capital is estimated at nearly VNĐ13.6 trillion (US$586.8 million), including cost for site clearance sourced from the State budget.
The first stage will cost VNĐ10.7 trillion (($461.7 million) under a Public-Private Partnership investment.
Construction is expected to be completed by 2025 with at least four lanes, and will be expanded to six or eight lanes by 2045.
The HCM City Department of Transport has asked the Ministry of Planning and Investment to allocate VNĐ3.281 trillion in the 2021-2025 period to widen the HCM City – Long Thành – Dầu Giây Expressway and its surrounding roads.
Trần Văn Thi, director of the Mỹ Thuận Project Management Board, said that expansion of the expressway was urgently needed to ease overloading, especially when the Long Thành international airport opens at the end of 2025.
He said that a 24km section of the expressway, connecting HCM City with Long Thành international airport, should be implemented first.
He also asked the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Planning and Investment to allocate medium-term capital sources for the 2021-2025 period with priority given to the use of state budget or from official development assistance (ODA).
The southeast region, which accounts for 40 per cent of the country’s total budget revenue and 38 per cent GDP, is the focal economic region in Việt Nam, according to Thể.
It includes HCM City and Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Bình Dương, Bình Phước, Đồng Nai, and Tây Ninh provinces. However, the region’s transport structure is far below the needs of its economic and social growth potential.
There are only two expressways in the region: the HCM City-Long Thành-Dầu Giây and HCM City-Trung Lương.
Road transport plays a key role in the region, serving about 80 per cent of all freight transport from the provinces in the region to HCM City, causing serious congestion on HCM City-Trung Lương Expressway and National Road 51.
The National Road 22 from HCM City to Tây Ninh Province has also become congested with the number of vehicles increasing by 8 per cent annually, according to the Ministry of Transport.
The Cái Mép – Thị Vải deep-water port in Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province is the international gateway to the region. The port is one of more than 20 ports in the world that can be accessed by container ships of over 200,000 tonnes.
When the first phase of Long Thành international airport in Đồng Nai Province opens slated for 2025, a new hub of the aviation industry will be formed in the region.
Experts said the region should focus on investment in traffic infrastructure to enhance linkages between the port, the international airport and industrial parks in the region to boost socio-economic development. — VNS
HÀ NỘI — After the UK-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA) took effect on December 31, 2020, both sides saw impressive growth in their two-way trade though exports faced formidable challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statistics from the General Department of Việt Nam Customs showed that total trade in goods between the two nations topped US$657.35 million in January, a year-on-year hike of 78.57 per cent. The Ministry of Industry and Trade described it as an impressive growth, particularly in the context of COVID-19.
Notably, Việt Nam’s shipments to the European country hit $598.07 million, or 84.61 per cent higher than the same time last year, and 56.51 per cent higher than December 2020. Exports of agricultural products maintained stable growth in the month, with export revenue of seafood surging 18.1 per cent to $19.72 million, and fruits and vegetables rising 148.6 per cent to $1.04 million.
Under the UK trade deal, tariffs levied on Vietnamese shrimp materials is reduced from 10-20 per cent to zero per cent, while more than 94 per cent of 547 tariff lines on Vietnamese fruits and vegetables will be cut to zero per cent.
Experts said a wide range of Vietnamese fruits like lychee, longan, dragon fruit, pineapple and rambutan will hold more advantages to access the UK market over those from Brazil, Thailand and Malaysia who have not clinched an FTA with the European country.
Việt Nam also saw strong increase in its shipments of telephone and parts (up 371.6 per cent to $252.59 million); machines, equipment and parts (up 109.9 per cent to US$74.58 million); computers and parts (up 91 per cent to $31.82 million), among others.
Meanwhile, Việt Nam spent $59.297 million on imports from the UK, up 34.3 per cent year-on-year.
Last year, total trade value between the two nations reached $5.64 billion, with Việt Nam posting positive trade balance of $4.27 billion. The UK continued to be the 3rd largest trade partner of Việt Nam in Europe, following Germany and the Netherlands.
As of December 2020, the UK registered $3.84 billion in 411 projects in Việt Nam, becoming the 15th biggest investor among 139 countries and territories landing investment in the nation. Most of the UK’s projects were in finance, banking, oil and renewable energy.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade affirmed that the trade pact will boost trade growth between the two nations in the future thanks to its commitment to erasing 65 per cent of the total tariffs immediately after the pact took effect, and 99 per cent of the tariffs in six or seven years. — VNS
HÀ NỘI — The Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) has announced a list of 697 Vietnamese seafood enterprises permitted to export their products to Taiwan, reported the Việt Nam Association of Seafood Processors and Exporters (VASEP).
This list of eligible Vietnamese seafood enterprises is valid from February 23, 2021, according to the TFDA’s announcement sent to the Việt Nam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, the association said.
The VASEP said Taiwan is not among the top 10 seafood export markets of Việt Nam. But this market also has a relatively stable seafood import value from Việt Nam with more than US$100 million per year, accounting for 1.3 to 1.8 per cent of national total seafood exports in recent years.
This market mainly imports frozen/fresh tiger and white-leg shrimp, frozen pangasius fillet, processed shrimp, surimi, squid and octopus from Việt Nam.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seafood export turnover to this market in the first half of 2020 decreased by 14 per cent compared to the same period the year before, reaching $50.5 million. Of which, the export value fell by 18 per cent for shrimp to $27 million, 27 per cent for pangasius to nearly $10 million and 4 per cent for other seafood products to $22 million.
According to the General Department of Customs, in 2020, Việt Nam’s seafood export value to Taiwan was $120 million.
Before the pandemic, Nam Việt Joint Stock Company gained an export value of between $5-6 million each year from exporting pangasius to Taiwan.
However, since due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, the company’s seafood exports to Taiwan have declined. Therefore, it has focused on key markets such as the US and the EU or potential markets in Asia like Thailand and Malaysia that have similar value exports and are also members of the CPTPP agreement, Đỗ Thị Thu Thủy, Nam Việt’s business manager, said.
The Thuận Phước Fishery and Trading Joint Stock Company has also faced a reduction in seafood exports to Taiwan due to lower purchasing during the pandemic.
The company will focus on larger markets and ignore this Asian market, said Trần Văn Linh, Thuận Phước JSC chairman.
According to experts, it is completely reasonable for local seafood enterprises to focus on major markets. The attraction from the EVFTA makes more and more businesses in the seafood industry concentrate on exploiting the European market.
However, although the export value of seafood to Taiwan is not high, the demand for seafood in this market is increasing. This is an opportunity for Vietnamese businesses.
The VASEP also noted that to export to Taiwan, the businesses’ products need small packaging, nice design and full instructions for use. In addition, when entering the Taiwanese market, they need to pay attention to advertising.
The experts say that besides the large markets, local enterprises should still maintain smaller markets. Diversifying markets will help them to achieve the long-term goal of sustainable development. — VNS