Daily Archives: May 2, 2020

Silent trips in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic

 Since the coronavirus outbreak began in HCM City, every day has been a busy one for health workers at Emergency Centre 115.

In addition to transporting emergency patients to health facilities, they have been assigned a new task: transporting COVID-19 cases and those suspected of having coronavirus to health facilities and quarantine areas.

Medical staff at the centre are working harder than ever despite rising temperatures in the city.

They have become the “silent transporters” in the fight against the disease.

Dr Do Ngoc Chanh, the centre’s deputy director, said since the end of December 2019, Emergency Centre 115 had been preparing plans to cope with the pandemic after reports started filtering from across the world.

“We were one of the first units in Vietnam to prepare a response plan because we were aware that HCM City was at high risk. Everything had to be prepared early,” Chanh said.

On the 29th day of the last lunar month of the Year of the Pig (2019), the first two COVID-19 cases appeared in Vietnam and in HCM City.

Since then, the entire centre has been put on “red alert”.

Dr Dao ThiBich Hang, acting head of the centre’s Administration Department, said on the second day of the Lunar New Year,they received a phone call from a resident reporting a tourist suspected of being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in District 3.

A team from Emergency Centre 115 fully prepared protective gear and rushed to the scene.

“To be honest, at that time, we still had not received instructions on how to investigate the virus, so when someone called to report suspected infections, we prepared protective clothing before approaching patients,” said Dr Hang.

The team on duty that day were concerned, and their fears were only allayed when doctors at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases reported that the tourist did not have coronavirus, she said.

On January 31, the centre received a call from a hotel reporting that a man from the US who had passed through Wuhan Airport was showing symptoms of the disease.

He was promptly treated and isolated to avoid spreading the disease, Dr Do Ngoc Chanh said.

Since then, the staff at the hospital have had many sleepless nights and unfinished meals.

Vo Lam Khoi Nguyen, a driver, said he was disinfecting his car after each trip, and was always on call.

Even at 11pm, the phone was still ringing non-stop for the drivers to pick up patients or suspected cases to health facilities, and sometimes they were returning home at 5am.

Another new day began after a sleepless night.

Hundreds of such trips have taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have experienced many pandemics but this is the most stressful, especially with people coming from abroad. Sometimes we have to transport 7-8 COVID-19 patients and suspected cases a day, not including daily emergency cases,” said Pham Quoc Viet, head of the team, who has worked at the centre for nearly 30 years.

It takes 5-6 hours for each trip because the quarantine sites are far from the city, he said.

“Drivers are not allowed to rest along the way when they are transporting patients or suspected cases to hospitals or quarantine zones. We have to leave our personal needs behind,” Viet said.

The protective clothing, mask and gloves in cars without air conditioning makes it tougher.

“It’s like torture,” Nguyen said with smile.

That’s the job. They all work hard to fight the pandemic.

The phone rings and they’re off again.

Source: Vietnam News Agency

Indonesia’s Consulate General sends thank-you letter to SocTrang border guards

 The Consulate General of Indonesia has sent a thank-you letter to the Border Guard Command of the Mekong Delta province of SocTrang for rescuing five Indonesian citizens who drifted into waters off the local coast, Colonel Nguyen Triu Men from the Command said on May 2.

“On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, I would like to thank Border Guard Command in SocTrang Province for its professionalism in handling the process of rescue and repatriation of Indonesian Ship Crew of the sunken MV Jagat Raya,” wrote Consul General HanifSalim.

“I believe your positive approach toward the purpose above will contribute greatly to your reputation. I kindly expect strong and productive cooperation can be maintained in the many years to come.”

Indonesia’s JAGAL RAYA ship, which was carrying 230 tonnes of rice from My Thoi Port in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang to the Philippines, ran around at 9pm on April 26 at Buoy No. 3, about 5 nautical miles southeast of TraVinh province.

At 8am on April 27, the ship’s owner informed authorities that it had a problem with its engine and its cargo area was flooded with water, thus resquesting towage assistance.

On board were seven Indonesians. From 2.30 pm to 5.15 pm on the same day, the vessel Bien Dong 7 and pilot vessels searched an area from Buoy No. 0 to Buoy No. 23 but could not locate the Indonesian ship.

Five had been rescued by SocTrang border guards and sent to health care centres in Tran De district and VinhChau town. All are now in stable condition.

Source: Vietnam News Agency

Three drug cases uncovered in Lam Dong, Nam Dinh provinces

 Three drug cases were recently discovered in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong and the northern province of Nam Dinh, with 1.4kg of heroin and 4,000 synthetic drug pills seized.

Lam Dong police said on May 2 that they stopped a 33-year-old woman riding a motorcycle on late May 1 and found two boxes containing white powder. Test results show that the substance was heroin, and the two bricks weigh 350g each.

This woman, living in Lien Nghia township of DucTrong district, confessed that she had brought the drug for 540 million VND (over 23,500 USD) from another woman from the central province of Nghe An.

Also on late May 1, local police caught a 46-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man in Nam Ban township of Lam Ha district while they were trafficking two heroin bricks weighing 350g each on a motorbike.

The woman said they had been paid 10 million VND to bring the drugs from NgheAn to Lam Dong’s Da Lat city.

Meanwhile, border guards of Nam Dinh province on May 1 also arrested a 31-year-old man for storing 4,000 synthetic drug pills in the Quat Lam tourist site in Quat Lam township of GiaoThuy district.

The man said he is a drug addict and had trafficked the drug from northern Son La province to Nam Dinh. He used to be imprisoned for 18 months for illegal drug storage and use and was just released in October 2019.

Source: Vietnam News Agency

Filipino adrift at sea saved by BinhDinh fishermen, border guards

 A Filipino fisherman found exhausted and adrift at sea has been saved by fishermen and border guards of the central province of BinhDinh.

At about 2:40pm of April 17, a fishing boat from HoaiNhon district of BinhDinh found the 52-year-old Filipino, AndingRepil, adrift in a coracle about 180 nautical miles to the east of the province’s QuyNhon city.

He was later brought to the fishing boat but became exhausted and unconscious.

After being cared, he regained his consciousness and was handed over to the Tam Quan Nam border guard post of BinhDinh in the mainland.

There, he and the crew of the Vietnamese fishing boat received check-ups. COVID-19 prevention and control measures were also implemented.

Local authorities are carrying out procedures to transfer the Filipino to the Philippine Embassy in Vietnam.

Source: Vietnam News Agency

Central city to restore national relic sites

 The Prime Minister has agreed to assign the Da Nang People’s Committee to the restoration of the NguHanh Son (Marble Mountains) landscape site – a National Special Relic – in a decision released last week.

Director of the city’s Culture and Sports department, Huynh Van Hung said the destination, which was recognised as a National Special Relic by the Prime Minister in 2019, will be restored, covering a total area of 100ha, including the core 2.2sq.km zone and buffer zone as well as stone sculpture village.

He said the site will be improved under special protection, promoting the tangible and intangible heritage of the 400-year-old Non Nuoc stone sculpture village and craft community.

The Marble Mountains – which features five mountains by a pristine beach in NguHanh Son district, 6km southeast of the city centre – was given the name NguHanh Son by the 18th of King Minh Mang under the Nguyen Dynasty in 1837.

Kim Son Mountain, the largest of the Marble Mountains, hosts the annual QuanThe Am (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva) Festival – one of the 15 largest events in Vietnam – at the Da and Quan The Am pagodas.

The stone sculpture village still preserves a community of 2,000 craftspeople and sculptors, as well as shops.

The landscape – one of the most popular sites for tourists among the Da Nang Museum, Cham Sculpture Museum and Ba Na Hills Mountain – attracts nearly 2 million tourists annually.

It’s also the second National Special Relic in the city after the DienHai Citadel.

In a recent decision, the city’s people’s committee plans to expand the current NghiaTrungHoaVang (the HoaVang Martyrs Cemetery) – a national historical relic – from 4,000sq.m to 6,000sq.m in Cam Le district.

The site will be restored and upgraded in 2020-21, Hung said.

The cemetery is a resting place of 1,000 Vietnamese warriors who died during the 1858-60 battle against French-Spanish coalition forces in Da Nang.

The city also preserves a graveyard of French-Spanish troops who were killed in the fight and a chapel near Tien Sa Port.

According to the Da Nang Museum, more than 4,300 Vietnamese civilians and soldiers were killed during the 1858-60 battle with the French-Spanish forces.

Source: Vietnam News Agency

Amnesty Reports Chilling Details of Egypt Press Crackdown

Journalism in Egypt has effectively become a crime over the past four years, as authorities clamp down on media outlets and muzzle dissent, Amnesty International said in a report released Sunday.

As the number of coronavirus infections in Egypt continues to rise, the government is strengthening its control over information, the London-based rights group said, instead of upholding transparency during the public health crisis.

“The Egyptian authorities have made it very clear that anyone who challenges the official narrative will be severely punished,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.

Amnesty documented 37 cases of journalists detained in the government’s escalating crackdown on press freedoms, many charged with “spreading false news” or “misusing social media” under a broad 2015 counterterrorism law that has expanded the definition of terror to include all kinds of dissent.

An Egyptian press officer did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment, but authorities have previously denied rights violations and justified arrests on national security grounds.

Following general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s rise to power in 2013, most of Egypt’s television programs and newspapers have taken the government position and steered clear of criticism, or else disappeared. Many privately owned Egyptian news outlets have been quietly acquired by companies affiliated with the country’s intelligence service.

12 journalists jailed

But even a pro-government voice hasn’t spared 12 journalists working for state-owned media outlets, who have landed in jail for expressing various private views on social media, the report said.

One of them is Atef Hasballah, editor-in-chief of the AlkararPress website. When he challenged the Health Ministry’s coronavirus case count on his Facebook page last month, he was promptly bundled into a police van and detained on suspicion of “joining a terrorist organization.”

Egypt’s public prosecutor warned in a recent statement that those who spread “false news” about the coronavirus may face up to five years imprisonment and steep fines. At least 12 individuals have been caught up in the COVID-19-motivated crackdown so far, according to Amnesty.

Last month, authorities blocked a local news site that covered calls by activists to release political prisoners over fears of the coronavirus spreading in Egypt’s crowded prisons. Separately, Egypt expelled a correspondent for The Guardian newspaper over an article that indicated the coronavirus infection rate may be higher than officially reported.

The journalists interviewed by Amnesty reported increasingly direct state intervention in their coverage. Many working for government-owned or aligned papers said they receive specific instructions via WhatsApp on what to report and to omit. For instance, a directive on how to handle U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year asked reporters not to mention the plan’s violations of long-standing Arab policies, as Trump and el-Sissi have cultivated close ties.

Those who do not hew the official line, such as by praising prison conditions and smearing the state’s political opponents, “lost their jobs, were interrogated or imprisoned,” one journalist was quoted as saying. “I cannot even imagine that someone could refuse to comply.”

Marking World Press Freedom Day, Amnesty urged Egyptian authorities to halt their censorship, harassment and intimidation of journalists—and to release those detained “solely for carrying out their work.” 

Source: Voice of America

White House Blocks Fauci’s Testimony on Administration’s COVID Response

The White House is blocking Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, from testifying Wednesday before a House of Representatives committee that is investigating how the Trump administration has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Fauci’s testimony would be “counter-productive,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman said in a statement.  
 
“While the Trump administration continues its whole-of-government response to Covid-19, including safely opening up America again, and expediting vaccine development,” Deere said, “it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings.”   
 
Fauci and U.S. President Donald Trump have not always agreed on how best to fight the spread of the virus.  Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has criticized the country’s testing capacity for the virus, calling it “a failing.”   Last month, Trump retweeted a #FireFauci posting from another account, but the White House insists that the president is not looking to fire highly popular scientist.
 
More than half of the 50 U.S. governors have taken steps to partially relax lockdown restrictions, while hoping a spike in infections won’t trigger another round of business closures.  
 
Other U.S. governors, many of whom are Democrats, are taking a more guarded approach, trying to balance the need to reopen their state economies with concerns about the coronavirus.
 
As some U.S. governors push to relax restrictions after Thursday’s expiration of White House distancing guidelines, Fauci, warned them to avoid lifting state limits prematurely.  

“Obviously you could get away with that, but you’re taking a really significant risk,” Fauci said on CNN.  
 
Another warning came in a report by the University of Minnesota, which said the pandemic could last two more years. The report, released Thursday by the university’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, warned that the U.S. should prepare for a decline in infections followed by a spike as early as this fall.  
 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted an emergency use authorization for the antiviral drug remdesivir, clearing the way for more hospitals to use the drug. Recent clinical data show the drug might be a promising treatment for the coronavirus.
 
More than 3.3 million people around the world have been infected with the coronavirus and nearly 240,000 have died of COVID-19.  
 
In the U.S., there are more than 1.1 million COVID cases and more than 65,000 deaths.  
 
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told BBC that it is a tragedy that the world’s leaders have not been able “to come together to face COVID-19 in an articulated coordinated way.”
 
The U.N. estimates that 8% of the world’s population, about 500 million people, could be forced into poverty by year’s end because of the devastation brought by the virus.  
 
As countries consider how and when to reopen, India, the world’s second-most populous country, said Friday it would extend its nationwide lockdown for two more weeks after May 4. But the country’s ministry of home affairs said “considerable relaxations” would be allowed in lower-risk areas, including the manufacturing and distribution of essential goods between states.  
 
Many European countries have begun gradually reopening or have plans to do so in the coming days. The economy in the eurozone – European countries that use the common euro currency – shrank a record 3.8% in the first quarter of the year.  
 
In Britain, health minister Matt Hancock announced Friday the country has hit its target of carrying out 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that Britain is past the peak of the coronavirus outbreak and that cases are declining. The coronavirus has killed more than 27,500 people in Britain and infected about 178,700.  
 
Italy, Spain and France on Friday reported declines in deaths from the virus, down from the peaks of their countries’ outbreaks.

In Brief:

  • COVID-19 disrupts May Day demonstrations around the world Friday
  • French President Macron called this year’s May Day observance “like no other”
  • U.S. workers at Amazon, Target and Instacart protested working conditions
  • Italy, Spain and France reported drops Friday in deaths from the virus
  • More than 3.3 million people around the world have now been infected
  • Almost 240,000 people infected with the virus have died
  • The U.S. has more than 1.1 million COVID cases and more than 65,000 deaths
  • A University of Minnesota report says the pandemic could last two more years
  • More than half of U.S. governors have taken steps to relax lockdown restrictions
  • The U.S. grants emergency use authorization for the drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19

Source: Voice of America