Hanoi Goes Into Lockdown, Virus Cases Soar

This general view shows a near-empty motorway in Hanoi on 24 July, 2021, the first day of a government imposed two-week lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AFP Photo)

Vietnam locked down eight million people in Hanoi on Saturday, the latest attempt to curb a serious coronavirus outbreak that has already forced a third of the country to stay home.

Authorities reported more than 7,000 new infections across the nation on Friday – the third record number of daily infections in a week.

The centre of the normally bustling capital was empty and shops were shuttered as the lockdown came into force, although people could still be seen on the streets in the outskirts of the city.

"I think people in Hanoi as myself agree with the city's sudden decision of locking down the city," said local resident Nguyen Van Chien.

"We have to take economic risks to fight the pandemic," he added.

After successfully containing limited coronavirus outbreaks last year, Vietnam has seen cases skyrocket since late April.

About a third of Vietnam's 100 million people are already subject to lockdown orders.

But the outbreak has showed few signs of slowing and southern commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City – which has recorded the majority of recent cases – extended its stay-at-home order on Friday.

"I have been indoors for a month. The situation in our city is scary," resident Le Bich Thanh said. 

Authorities began a campaign to disinfect the entire city, which they say will take a week. 

Vietnam was one of the few economies that expanded last year due to its success in containing the virus during the first wave of the pandemic.

But the Southeast Asian country has been slow to procure and administer vaccines, with just almost 4.5 million doses given so far.

It is also developing its own inoculations and authorities say they hope to reach herd immunity by early 2022.

Vietnam has a policy of hospitalising all virus carriers, putting medical workers and hospitals under huge strain, although the rule has been lifted in some areas.

Test Batch Of Russia's Sputnik V Jab

Russia announced Wednesday that a batch of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine was produced for the first time in Vietnam, which is battling a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

The test batch was produced in partnership with Vietnam's state-owned pharmaceutical company Vabiotech, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which financially backed Sputnik V, said in a statement.

The first samples from the batch will be shipped to the vaccine's developer – the Gamaleya Centre in Moscow – for quality control, the RDIF added.

"RDIF and Vabiotech are actively cooperating in the technology transfer process to provide easier access to Sputnik V for the population of Vietnam," the fund's CEO Kirill Dmitriyev said in the statement.

The president of Vabiotech, Dat Tuan Do, welcomed the announcement saying it "will help provide quality and affordable" vaccines to Vietnam and other countries in the region.

Vietnam has recently faced a surge in new infections with the government putting about a third of the country's 100 million people under stay-at-home orders to contain the outbreak.

The Southeast Asian country has been slow to procure and administer vaccines, with just 4.3 million doses given as of Monday.

Russia registered Sputnik V last August ahead of large-scale clinical trials, prompting concern among experts over the fast-tracked process.

It has since been declared safe and over 90 percent effective in a report published by leading medical journal The Lancet, restoring confidence in Russia's jab. 

The RDIF has signed production agreements with several countries, including India, which is expected to produce several hundred million doses per year. 

The RDIF says its two-dose vaccine has been approved in 68 countries and that it has applied for registration in the European Union (EU). – AFP