AstraZeneca Vaccinations Continue

Will Vaccine Passports Be Rolled Out?

Good morning! Hello to new sign-ups, and welcome back to returning readers. Earlier in the week I sent out an article for paying subscribers on a new report which found Vietnam’s overall air quality improved in 2020 (largely due to pandemic-related restrictions). However, this is unlikely to continue through 2021.

Paying subscribers get two such articles per month, and you can sign up for US$5/month below. (If you’re reading this through a shared link and would just like to sign up to the free Vietnam Weekly, that’s ok too.)

On to the news.

The Vaccination Campaign Rolls On

Nearly 20 countries (including Indonesia and Thailand) have halted or delayed distribution of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine over blood clot concerns, but the Vietnamese government reaffirmed this week that it will continue to administer shots of the vaccine. (I refuse to use the word ‘jab’.)

Thus far, 24,054 medical staff and frontline workers in 12 cities and provinces have received their first dose of that vaccine, and no blood clots have been reported.

A number of people experienced side effects, but only one person has had a serious reaction, and they are now in stable condition.

Additionally, 70 Vietnamese military medics who will be deployed to South Sudan for the UN’s peacekeeping mission there received their first vaccine dose in Ho Chi Minh City this week.

Roughly 5 million more AstraZeneca doses are expected to arrive in Vietnam by April, while Pfizer “may” supply 30 million doses of its vaccine within this year.

The government wants a supply of 150 million doses by the end of this year, though only 117,600 have been delivered so far.

Nanocovax, one of the two most promising domestic vaccine candidates, could also be ready by the fourth quarter, according to the health ministry, though there will be issues with final testing of that vaccine since there are so few active COVID-19 cases in Vietnam.

And 1,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine were given to Vietnam during a visit by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on Tuesday. It is not known when or how these doses will be used.

While we wait for the vaccination drive to pick up speed, the tourism industry is lobbying hard for the government to figure out a vaccine passport system soon so that the sector can resume some form of its previous self. The Vietnam Tourism Association says that 95% of tour operators aimed at foreign arrivals have had to shut down, while they believe foreign tourists could be welcomed back starting in the third quarter.

Outgoing Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked involved government agencies to consider “appropriate anti-pandemic prevention measure” as they draw up plans for vaccine passports and the resumption of normal inbound commercial flights.

There appears to be internal debate over whether or not fully vaccinated arrivals will need to do 14 days of quarantine in the future.

Some officials have said that vaccine passports should first be tried out on arrivals from countries with high vaccination rates, while this odd VnExpress article which only quotes overseas health experts argues that Vietnam shouldn’t be in any hurry on this matter.

I’m standing by my prediction that entering Vietnam without quarantining won’t be possible for some time - at least for regular tourists.

Vingroup Goes All-In on Phu Quoc

Earlier this week, Vingroup announced grand plans for something called the Phu Quoc United Center, which will cover over 1,000 hectares and include “thousands of record entertainment items in addition to a 24/7 resort and shopping ecosystem.” (I’m including direct quotes from the press release here, so excuse the phrasing.)

Part of the project is now called “the Sleepless City,” which connects to the “boredom-free land” of a huge amusement park.

In general, this area appears to be the result of ramming together any and every form of entertainment (I’m using that word generously) into one place: we’re talking multiple hotels adding up to over 10,000 rooms, a golf course, an animal safari, a massive aquarium, the unfortunately named Corona Casino, a teddy bear museum, a night market, a Venice-style artificial canal, and all kinds of stuff that I can’t quite understand.

Most of these facilities are actually already completed, so I’m not sure what the significance of this branding is, but the United Center is set to open on April 21.

The press release ends by saying that “the ‘Sleepless City’ model in Phu Quoc United Center not only lays the foundation for night-time economic development of Vietnam but also marks a step forward, turning Vietnam into a new international destination on the world tourist map.”

I am not the target demographic for any of this, but such massive developments are concerning - Phu Quoc already faces a huge trash problem, both on land and sea, as its landfills are overflowing and plastic waste coming in on currents is an issue along the beaches. Rapid development has also led to flooding during the wet season, which is odd on an island.

The expansive Vingroup colony, combined with the still-growing strip of international resorts further south, will place immense pressure on the island’s environment and infrastructure. I don’t have high hopes for Phu Quoc’s future.

I had planned to cover the latest on Saigon’s metro lines (it’s not good news…) but this is a bit long already, so I’ll push that to next week.

Extra Links:

Three Nha Trang Residents on How Covid-19 Affected Their Livelihood (Saigoneer)

The Plight of Vietnam’s Karst-Dwelling Species (Southeast Asia Globe)

Dầu Gió, a Poignant Link Between My Family Legacy and Traditional Medicine (Saigoneer)

Thanks for reading.