The Latest COVID-19 Wave
While VinFast Makes a Bad First Impression
Good morning from Ho Chi Minh City! Thanks for reading the Vietnam Weekly - believe it or not, putting this together is one of my favorite tasks each week. If you’re reading this through a shared link and would like to sign up for either the free or paid versions of the newsletter, you can do so below.
For Saigoneer, I reviewed Eric Nguyen’s new New Orleans-set novel, ‘Things We Lost to the Water.’
Let’s jump right in.
Case numbers climb and closures spread
On Monday, 34 community infections had been logged in a new COVID-19 wave that began on April 27. As of Thursday evening, that number had risen to 120, with 56 announced last night. These are mostly in northern provinces: 47 in Hanoi, 25 in Vinh Phuc, 14 in Ha Nam, 12 in Bac Ninh, and low single digits in seven other provinces and cities.
This brings the national total to 3,090 through the course of the pandemic.
A major point of concern is the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, which has been locked down due to the discovery of 42 infections there. The military has been called in to disinfect the facility with specialized vehicles, and a number of cases outside the capital are linked to the hospital.
Officials in the capital have warned of the strong possibility of further cases and urged residents to stay home as much as possible, while numerous types of businesses are closed. Dozens of people there have been fined for not wearing a mask in public.
Hanoi and 17 other locations have closed schools, and Ho Chi Minh City will follow suit on Monday. Bars, karaoke parlors, cinemas and nightclubs have been shut down here, but life is largely normal otherwise.
It’s not yet clear how extensive the virus’ spread may be, though three patients in Vinh Phuc Province who contracted the virus from a group of Chinese experts have the Indian “double mutant” strain, the first time this has been detected within the community here.
Contact tracing related to all of the above cases is ongoing, and I know several people who have been asked to isolate at home due to contact with people who visited locations where cases have been confirmed.
In major news, the Ministry of Health has extended the mandatory quarantine period for anyone entering Vietnam from 14 to 21 days, followed by seven days of home isolation. Individuals will be tested on the first, 14th and 20th days of quarantine, and again on their final day of home isolation. This is in response to a number of people testing positive for COVID-19 after completing 14 days of quarantine (and also raises the question of how many people may actually be catching the virus in quarantine.)
Additionally, this will surely push the timeline of any minimal resumption of inbound commercial flights back once again.
The government is also considering using electronic tagging on foreign arrivals to better monitor them in quarantine.
My sense is that people are very much in wait-and-see mode regarding this new infection wave: as ever, there is confidence that health officials will handle the situation effectively, but it’s too early to tell how bad (or not) this might be in the short term.
VinFast meets the Streisand Effect
I’ve written here before about VinFast’s global ambitions, which Reuters covered in a great, very detailed feature last week. They plan to simultaneously launch electric cars in the US, Canada, Germany, France and the Netherlands next year.
That’s quite a goal, as the brand is completely unknown in those markets. Well, at least it was until this week.
On Tuesday, Reuters added that VinFast had reported a Vietnamese YouTuber to the police for uploading a video about his LuxA2.0 sedan that allegedly contained “untrue content” that “affected the reputation of VinFast.”
American auto publications like Jalopnik and The Drive quickly picked up on the story, and the comment sections are telling: besides the usual internet nonsense, there are a number of evidently American commenters saying how bad this makes VinFast look.
The comment section under AutoBlog’s post on this is particularly strange, with a number of accounts posting near-identical comments defending VinFast, and then getting called out by other people for being fake. As one says: “ If this company is resorting to calling the cops on customers and creating sock puppet accounts, they're not going to survive in the US.” (There are also some comments from users with Vietnamese names that are critical of the company.)
Suffice to say, this is not a good look, and surely not how VinFast wanted to introduce itself to American readers. They are doing important work by moving into the EV field, and I want to see Vietnamese companies succeed on the big stage (despite what some Twitter trolls think), but they simply can’t behave like this if they expect to be taken seriously overseas and compete with the likes of Tesla or BMW.
For what it’s worth, the Vietnamese-language news site Zing published an interview with a VinFast official on the matter yesterday - Google Translate is useful here.
Vietnam’s first unicorn bets on AI and overseas growth (Nikkei Asia)
Have a safe weekend!