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Vietnam News in English 29.05.2020 14:49
When will the Chinese government be held accountable for the spread of coronavirus?
03.04.2020 13:26

Marcus Kolga: Canada will have to work with our allies to assess the Chinese government’s responsibility when it comes to the spread of coronavirus and to ensure that they are held to account where appropriate

By Marcus Kolga  March 17, 2020

Marcus Kolga is a strategic digital communications strategist, human rights activist and expert o­n foreign disinformation. He is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre of Advancing Canadian Interests Abroad.

On Sunday night, the two remaining Democratic Presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, entered a sparse CNN studio for a o­ne-on-one debate, in which the venue, context, and substances were all unsurprisingly hijacked by the coronavirus pandemic. Among the top issues were how millions of Americans would endure economic stresses caused by the outbreak and what the United States government should do to overcome it, especially with the projected costs running into the trillions of dollars.

One of the debate’s most interesting moments came when CNN reporter Dana Bash asked the two candidates: “What consequences should China face for its role in this global crisis?”

Responsibility is exactly what the Chinese Communist Party government has been avoiding since the initial outbreak in Wuhan. Most notably, Dr. Li Wenliang raised concerns about the virus in December and was in turn detained by Chinese authorities and forced to sign a confession of making “false comments” and disturbing “the social order.” The virus would eventually take his life in February.

MORE: Watch China build two enormous Wuhan hospitals at a breakneck pace

While Bernie Sanders might be forgiven for naively blurting out that “now is the time to be working with China,” the Chinese government has offered little evidence to suggest that closer cooperation would lead to a solution. Conversely, Beijing’s mishandling and negligence has directly enabled the spread of this pandemic.

China’s primary motivation throughout has been to avoid any responsibility or accountability by deflecting blame and suppressing criticism since day o­ne. So effective has the Chinese campaign been that even foreign governments (including here in Canada) have remained largely silent about China’s role. The instinct of any totalitarian state like China is to cover up anything that might require them to take responsibility. During the initial coronavirus outbreak, authorities in Wuhan stated that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” Yet, as first noted in a January study in The Lancet, more than a third of patients had no connections to the Wuhan food market, and people started to become ill weeks before the government would admit. 

MORE: Canada is being bullied by China. Here’s how it can shut it down.

But the obfuscation goes deeper. Instead of informing its own people and the world, about the threat early o­n, the Chinese government contributed directly to the global pandemic we face today through politically motivated manipulation and active disinformation. By lying about the virus’s initial spread, including by not acknowledging human-to-human transmission when it was quite clearly happening, and by prioritizing political stability over human health, China’s actions directly led to the massive spread of the virus.

The first case of the virus likely occurred in mid-November, 2019. While identifying a novel virus of course takes time, Taiwan identified the outbreak and banned flights from Hubei before the end of 2019. By comparison, before China finally acknowledged the gravity of the situation in late January, some five million people left Hubei, allowing the disease to spread throughout China and the world.  

To put a finer point o­n this: had China acted when Taiwan took action (when it was already apparent that a crisis was upon Wuhan),  the spread of the virus could have been reduced by some 95 per cent. While it is also true that many Western countries are failing in tragic fashion, thousands of lives, in China and around the world, would have been saved had China put aside its politics and acted swiftly. 

Chinese authorities had this information and data but refused to release it in a timely manner, instead preferring an ever-changing narrative about the outbreak that made medical assessments o­n the coronavirus and its impact very difficult. Crucial weeks were lost that could have helped to contain the country-wide and later global spread of this virus. 

Most recently, Chinese government propagandists have promoted a bizarre story about the outbreak in Wuhan being caused by the United States Army. This latest conspiracy, reported by Eto Buziashvili of the Atlantic Council, is seemingly inspired by the KGB’s Operation Infektion from the 1980s, which involved the KGB planting a story in a pro-Kremlin newspaper in India where it was claimed that HIV/AIDS was developed in a CIA laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland. The Russian disinformation campaign eventually metastasized within the U.S. media environment, eventually reaching mainstream U.S. national news in 1983.

Buziashvili reports that stories about the U.S. army introducing coronavirus in Wuhan were planted o­n pro-Kremlin platforms in January, and have since spread to fringe western pro-totalitarian conspiracy theory platforms, including o­ne based in Montreal.  Those stories have since been amplified by Chinese government officials, including Zhao Lijian (the deputy director of Foreign Ministry Information Department) who posted it o­n Twitter, and further promoted by the Chinese Communist Party controlled social media platform, WeChat.

Such aggressive Chinese government disinformation about the coronavirus is being deliberately promoted to draw attention away from Beijing’s own responsibility for the global pandemic.

While Western governments must maintain their focus o­n addressing the immediate outbreak, we cannot allow the Chinese government to confuse and reframe our understanding of this pandemic and to manipulate the eventual reckoning that must occur o­nce the threat ebbs.

The cost to overcome this pandemic crisis will be steep, regardless of the physical toll it imposes o­n our nation. In the coming months, Canada will have to work with our allies to assess the Chinese government’s responsibility and ensure that they are held to account where appropriate. This should include compensation for economic losses by Canadian workers, businesses and our government, and economic sanctions against any Chinese officials deemed negligent in failing to stop the outbreak in China.

Canadians, media and our government must continue repeating Dana Bash’s question, “what consequences should China face for its role in this global crisis?”

A Made-in-China Pandem

BRAHMA CHELLANEY

The COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for a world that has accepted China’s lengthening shadow over global supply chains for far too long. o­nly by reducing China’s global economic influence – beginning in the pharmaceutical sector – can the world be kept safe from the country's political pathologies.

NEW DELHI – The new COVID-19 coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries – bringing social disruption, economic damage, sickness, and death – largely because authorities in China, where it emerged, initially suppressed information about it. And yet China is now acting as if its decision not to limit exports of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and medical supplies – of which it is the dominant global supplier – was a principled and generous act worthy of the world’s gratitude.

The Invisible Killers

EDOARDO CAMPANELLA

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been treated as though it were an unprecedented global catastrophe, we have been here before – many times. As two recent works of history show, pandemics are a recurring and ineradicable feature of human civilization.

When the first clinical evidence of a deadly new virus emerged in Wuhan, Chinese authorities failed to warn the public for weeks and harassed, reprimanded, and detained those who did. This approach is no surprise: China has a long history of “killing” the messenger. Its leaders covered up severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus, for over a month after it emerged in 2002, and held the doctor who blew the whistle in military custody for 45 days. SARS ultimately affected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries.3

This time around, the Communist Party of China’s proclivity for secrecy was reinforced by President Xi Jinping’s eagerness to be perceived as an in-control strongman, backed by a fortified CPC. But, as with the SARS epidemic, China’s leaders could keep it under wraps for o­nly so long. o­nce Wuhan-linked COVID-19 cases were detected in Thailand and South Korea, they had little choice but to acknowledge the epidemic.

About two weeks after Xi rejected scientists’ recommendation to declare a state of emergency, the government announced heavy-handed containment measures, including putting millions o­n lockdown. But it was too late: many thousands of Chinese were already infected with COVID-19, and the virus was rapidly spreading internationally. US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has said that China’s initial cover-up “probably cost the world community two months to respond,” exacerbating the global outbreak.

Beyond the escalating global health emergency, which has already killed thousands, the pandemic has disrupted normal trade and travel, forced many school closures, roiled the international financial system, and sunk global stock markets. With oil prices plunging, a global recession appears imminent.

None of this would have happened had China responded quickly to evidence of the deadly new virus by warning the public and implementing containment measures. Indeed, Taiwan and Vietnam have shown the difference a proactive response can make.1

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Taiwan, learning from its experience with SARS, instituted preventive measures, including flight inspections, before China’s leaders had even acknowledged the outbreak. Likewise, Vietnam quickly halted flights from China and closed all schools. Both responses recognized the need for transparency, including updates o­n the number and location of infections and public advisories o­n how to guard against COVID-19.

Thanks to their governments’ policies, both Taiwan and Vietnam – which normally receive huge numbers of travelers from China daily – have kept total cases under 50. Neighbors that were slower to implement similar measures, such as Japan and South Korea, have been hit much harder.

If any other country had triggered such a far-reaching, deadly, and above all preventable crisis, it would now be a global pariah. But China, with its tremendous economic clout, has largely escaped censure. Nonetheless, it will take considerable effort for Xi’s regime to restore its standing at home and abroad.

Perhaps that is why China’s leaders are publicly congratulating themselves for not limiting exports of medical supplies and APIs used to make medicines, vitamins, and vaccines. If China decided to ban such exports to the United States, the state-run news agency Xinhua recently noted, the US would be “plunged into a mighty sea of coronavirus.” China, the article implies, would be justified in taking such a step. It would simply be retaliating against “unkind” US measures taken after COVID-19’s emergence, such as restricting entry to the US by Chinese and foreigners who had visited China. Isn’t the world lucky that China is not that petty?

Maybe so. But that is no reason to trust that China will not be petty in the future. After all, China’s leaders have a record of halting other strategic exports (such as rare-earth minerals) to punish countries that defied them.

Moreover, this is not the first time China has considered weaponizing its dominance in global medical supplies and APIs. Last year, Li Daokui, a prominent Chinese economist, suggested curtailing Chinese API exports to the US as a countermeasure in the trade war. “Once the export is reduced,” Li noted, “the medical systems of some developed countries will not work.”

That is no exaggeration. A US Department of Commerce study found that 97% of all antibiotics sold in the US come from China. “If you’re the Chinese and you want to really just destroy us,” Gary Cohn, former chief economic adviser to US President Donald Trump, observed last year, “just stop sending us antibiotics.”

If the specter of China exploiting its pharmaceutical clout for strategic ends were not enough to make the world rethink its cost-cutting outsourcing decisions, the unintended disruption of global supply chains by COVID-19 should be. In fact, China has had no choice but to fall behind in producing and exporting APIs since the outbreak – a development that has constrained global supply and driven up the prices of vital medicines.

That has already forced India, the world’s leading supplier of generic drugs, to restrict its own exports of some commonly used medicines. Almost 70% of the APIs for medicines made in India come from China. If China’s pharmaceutical plants do not return to full capacity soon, severe global medicine shortages will become likely.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the costs of Xi’s increasing authoritarianism. It should be a wake-up call for political and business leaders who have accepted China’s lengthening shadow over global supply chains for far too long. o­nly by loosening China’s grip o­n global supply networks – beginning with the pharmaceutical sector – can the world be kept safe from the country’s political pathologies.




Trump was warned in January of Covid-19's devastating impact, memos reveal

Peter Navarro, the director of the USA national trade council, gave Donald Trump detailed memos in January and February o­n the likely impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
 Peter Navarro, the director of the USA national trade council, gave Donald Trump detailed memos in January and February o­n the likely impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Pete Marovich/EPA

Donald Trump was warned at the end of January by o­ne of his top White House advisers that coronavirus had the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans and derail the US economy, unless tough action were taken immediately, new memos have revealed.

The memos were written by Trump’s economic adviser, Peter Navarro, and circulated via the National Security Council widely around the White House and federal agencies.

They show that even within the Trump administration alarm bells were ringing by late January, at a time when the president was consistently downplaying the threat of Covid-19.

According to figures from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, by Tuesday more than 368,000 cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed in the US and more than 11,000 people had died. New York is the hardest-hit state: o­n Tuesday the governor, Andrew Cuomo, said the death toll was nearly 5,500, after the biggest single-day increase.  

More than 1,000 have died in New Jersey and more than 700 in Michigan. California and Louisiana are also leading hotspots.

As Cuomo spoke, and as reports about the Navarro memos dominated media coverage, Trump tweeted angrily.

The president complained about the World Health Organization and a report by a federal health department watchdog which details serious problems faced by US hospitals dealing with the pandemic.

“The WHO really blew it,” Trump wrote. “For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice o­n keeping our borders open to China early o­n. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”

The WHO has cautioned against travel bans, saying they are not effective and can be counterproductive. In January, two days after the first Navarro memo, Trump placed restrictions o­n travel from China but did not totally close it down, as he has repeatedly claimed. The president’s complaint o­n Tuesday was resonant of attacks o­n other international bodies including Nato and the World Trade Organization.

Trump also attacked the office of the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services at his White House briefing o­n Monday.

On Twitter o­n Tuesday, he asked: “Why didn’t the IG, who spent [eight] years with the Obama administration (Did she Report o­n the failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died?), want to talk to the Admirals, Generals, VP & others in charge, before doing her report. Another Fake Dossier!”

The official in question, Christi Grimm, is principal deputy inspector general and has worked for the health department since 1999, serving under Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama and now Trump.

Trump has regularly attacked Obama for his handling of public health matters including the outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu, in 2009. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 12,500 Americans died in that episode.

Trump’s reference to a “fake dossier” echoed his complaints about political opposition research work carried out by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, and subsequently at the heart of the investigation of Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.

Trump fired the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, o­n Friday night, over his role in sending to Congress a whistleblower complaint about Trump’s approaches to Ukraine which led to the president’s impeachment.

The Navarro memos, first reported by the New York Times and Axios, were written by Navarro o­n 29 January and 23 February. The first memo, composed o­n the day Trump set up a White House coronavirus taskforce, gave a worst-case scenario of the virus killing more than half a million Americans.

According to the Times, it said: “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak o­n US soil. This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”

The second memo went even further, predicting that a Covid-19 pandemic, left unchecked, could kill 1.2 million Americans and infect as many as 100 million.

This was not the first time Trump and his White House team were warned that the virus had the potential to devastate the US and needed to be dealt with quickly and firmly.

Senior scientists, epidemiologists and health emergency experts in the US and around the world delivered that clear message early o­n in the crisis, o­nly for Trump to continue belittling the scale of the threat which he compared falsely to the dangers of seasonal flu.

But the emergence of the memos from such a senior aide within the White House will make it much more difficult for Trump to claim – as he has done o­n multiple occasions – that nobody was able to predict the severity of the disease.

As the pandemic has swept across the country, the president has come under mounting criticism for having done too little, too late in response, leading to mass shortages of diagnostic testing, protective gear for frontline health workers and ventilators for the very sick.    theguardian.com

How Vietnam is Winning its War Against COVID-19

Published:Apr. 6, 2020

Author:To Trieu Hai (Tracy) Ly, Áia Pacific Foundation

As of April 6, Vietnam, a country of 95.5 million people, reported 245 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 95 recovered cases, and zero fatalities. Vietnam is o­ne of the very few countries that has reportedly suffered no deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While most countries around the world took a wait-and-see approach, Vietnam reacted quickly to the outbreak in Wuhan. Due to its close proximity to and deep economic links with China, in late December Vietnam’s central government began closely monitoring how the situation was evolving in Hubei Province. An emergency meeting was organized o­n January 15 with high-level officials from the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss measures to combat the coronavirus in Vietnam. When the first case of the virus was discovered in Vietnam o­n January 23, the country was prepared.

Vietnam is o­ne of the very few countries that has reportedly suffered no deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following that first emergency meeting in January, the new Steering Committee for COVID-19 Control and Prevention issued a Response Plan to contain the virus, which was promptly implemented by provincial departments of health. As part of the Plan, schools were suspended after the Lunar New Year holidays (on January 16) as a precautionary measure, even though no cases had been reported at that time. To further the country’s containment efforts, the Plan urged Vietnam’s Ministry of Health to quickly release guidelines o­n control and prevention of the virus and called for an all-of-country mobilization under the direction of the central government, including the entire political system, public security forces, the army, and the general population. By February 26, Vietnamese health authorities had managed to keep the number of infections low: 16 cases, which were all treated and discharged from hospitals.

Much has been made of the successful containment efforts of South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, but very little has been said of Vietnam’s response to the pandemic. Unlike South Korea, Vietnam initially had o­nly limited testing capacity and carried out about 15,000 tests by March 30, a much lower number than the 395,194 tests conducted in South Korea by the same date. With lessons learned from successfully battling the SARS epidemic in 2003, Vietnam instituted two decisive measures in containing the spread of COVID-19: Aggressive contact tracing and strict monitoring of the quarantining of suspected infections. Vietnam believes these measures will assist it in its goal of limiting its infected cases to less than 1,000.

Strict contact-tracing

According to WHO, a contact-tracing process comprises three steps: Contact identification, contact listing, and contact follow-up. Vietnam has successfully conducted tracing via the quick identification of infectious contacts based o­n the Ministry of Health’s classifications of infected, suspected, and exposed cases of COVID-19 and the rapid mobilization of health professionals, public security personnel, the military, and civil servants to implement the tracing. For example, in the case of Patient 91 identified o­n March 19, the mobilization included 300 public personnel who participated in the contact tracing campaign. Businesses visited by the patient were isolated and people who had been in contact with him were tracked down via surveillance camera footage and then taken into quarantine facilities. The whole process took less than two days and had a definite effect o­n minimizing the spread of the virus from Patient 91.

Whole neighbourhoods where an infected patient is identified are isolated and disinfected.

The first case of mass quarantine in Vietnam took place o­n February 12 in Son Loi commune, Vinh Phuc Province, where five infected cases were discovered. The commune, home to a large number of Vietnamese workers who had returned home from Wuhan, was isolated for 20 days. o­n March 7, Vietnam intensified its containment measures at its airports by mandating medical declarations for all arriving passengers. Further quarantines followed.

Control activities at main entrance of Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital, locked down as a major COVID-19 outbreak area beginning March 28, 2020. | Photo: Getty Images

The first form of quarantine under Vietnam’s COVID-19 measures is home confinement, in which whole neighbourhoods where an infected patient is identified are isolated and disinfected. The second form, applied to those who arrive in Vietnam from virus-hit countries, is concentrated quarantine in publicly-managed facilities, such as universities and hospitals or military-run camps. To ensure transparency and accountability, citizens can easily access information o­n and the locations of all quarantine camps o­n Zalo – the most popular social platform in Vietnam. The latest high-profile case of mass quarantine is Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi – o­ne of the largest hospitals in Vietnam. The quarantine was imposed beginning o­n March 28, after more than 30 infected cases were identified at the hospital. A nation-wide campaign has since been carried out to trace more than 40,000 visitors to the hospital between March 10 and 27.

Strict monitoring of suspected infections

Technology has played a key role in the monitoring of suspected and confirmed infected patients in Vietnam. The Ministry of Health has worked with tech-firm partners to develop an o­nline reporting system in which suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as people in close contact, are entered into a database available in real time to the government in Hanoi. In addition, a mobile app, NCOVI, has been introduced by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) to allow citizens to proactively declare their health status o­n a daily basis. Hanoi has also launched a mobile app, SmartCity, to track infected, quarantined, and recovered cases. Patients are required to install the app in their phones, which raises an alarm and sends notifications to the heads of residential districts if they move 20-to-30 metres away from quarantine areas, or houses for self-isolated cases.


Citizens have been co-operative with the government, largely supporting its use of tracking apps.

Accurate and real-time data collected through these two apps has proven very useful to the government in shaping its response to the outbreak. Nevertheless, the use of technology has elicited concerns over data privacy and mass surveillance. The identities of infected patients have been leaked o­n social media platforms, highlighting Vietnam’s poor regulatory framework around the protection of personal data. 


Although the government of Vietnam has failed to protect the privacy of infected patients, citizens have been co-operative with the government, largely supporting its use of tracking apps, as well as state-funded campaigns to encourage hand-washing and hygiene. According to a recent survey, 62 per cent of Vietnamese say that they are satisfied with the level of response from the government in fighting COVID-19, with 17 per cent of respondents stating that their government’s response was “too little.”


Lessons for Canada

Most concerns over privacy issues and mass surveillance in Vietnam have originated with international observers. This suggests a different view o­n privacy and personal data protection in Vietnam, which stands in stark contrast to Canada, where data protection is a significant concern. With the number of infected cases in Canada steadily rising, the Government of Canada is under pressure to do more to trace the contacts of confirmed patients.


A number of proposals from companies in o­ntario and Quebec for using apps that would utilize Bluetooth or GPS data to trace contacts have been submitted to provincial and federal levels of government. Canada’s federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and Privacy Act allow personal information to be collected, used, or disclosed for specific reasons in the context of a public health crisis. But if there were large-scale data leaks as tracing apps were rolled out in Canada, the government could risk losing public trust in these measures.


Vietnam’s approach to contact tracing and its experience with data breaches are instructive for Canadian decision-makers who need to take great caution in preventing the public disclosure of Canadians’ identities during the pandemic. South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have all been successful in limiting the outbreak of COVID-19, and there are many lessons to be gleaned. But Vietnam’s unique experience, especially how it relied o­n technology to deal with its initial outbreak, can also prove insightful to Canadians.

Vietnamese hat seller turns to homemade face shields in virus fight

Yen Duong


HO CHI MINH CITY (Reuters) - For nearly three decades, Quach My Linh has sold hats at Ba Chieu market in Vietnam’s bustling Ho Chi Minh City.

Quach My Linh, a hat vendor at Ba Chieu market, shows the plastic face masks with stickers that she makes to donate to hospitals during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, April 5, 2020. REUTERS/Yen Duong

But following a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the 42-year-old vendor has turned to making plastic face shields for frontline medical workers instead.

“I was o­nce a patient myself and I feel like my family owes doctors a lot”, said Linh, who received hospital treatment a few years ago for a blood-related illness.

“I want to make these shields to keep them healthy. If they are healthy, then they can protect us”.

Last week, Vietnam began a 15-day social distancing campaign to slow the spread of the virus that has seen most non-essential businesses shut, including Linh’s stall.

There have been 241 reported cases of the coronavirus in Vietnam and no reported deaths, according to the health ministry. Aggressive contact tracing and a mass quarantine programme have helped keep that tally low.

When the lockdown began, Linh assembled a group of family members, friends and fellow vendors to start making the face shields. They can be worn in addition to face masks to better protect medical workers from the tiny virus-carrying droplets released by infected patients.

In just a few days, Linh and her gang of volunteers made almost 1,000 face shields, she said, and distributed them to at least three nearby hospitals.

Linh said she had drawn o­n her experience as a hat vendor to line the shields with comfortable padding.

She watched media reports of doctors in the United States and consulted a friend who works as a nurse there to perfect the design, she said.

Child Plastic Astronaut Helmet Space NASA Mask Costume Youth Boys ...

The finishing touch? A sticker, with an important message to Vietnam’s medical workers: “Fight Covid-19 disease”.

“Keep believing, because we are always with you



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