COVID Numbers Climb in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, With Some in Laos Fearing Vaccination

Many in Laos are reluctant to take the vaccine, fearing harm to their health, after a 70-year-old woman dies on May 10 two days after taking the shot.
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COVID Numbers Climb in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, With Some in Laos Fearing Vaccination A Vietnamese woman receives a COVID-19 shot at a vaccination site in Hai Duong province, March 8, 2021.

Cases of COVID-19 infection continued to climb in Vietnam this week, with authorities locking down residential areas and industrial zones for disinfection, state media said on Thursday.

Officials in Cambodia transferred inmates from a provincial prison to slow the spread of the disease behind bars amid rising numbers of deaths in the country, while in Laos residents voiced concern over the safety of vaccines despite a rise in cases there.

In Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, two apartment buildings, Ho Guom Plaza and Booyoung Vina—both located in the capital’s Ha Dong district—were closed and disinfected after two residents were found to be infected, media sources said.

In Vinh Phuch province, northwest of Hanoi, the People’s Committee of Vinh Yen city imposed a lockdown from May 13 to May 27 on the city’s Hung Vuong ward after six new cases of infection were reported there.

The virus has now also spread within neighborhoods and industrial zones in several other provinces and cities, including Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, and Da Nang, media sources say.

On May 13, city leaders in southern Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City issued orders directing the city’s 17 industrial and processing zones to fully activate COVID-19 prevention and control systems, adding that areas without such plans in place would be temporarily shut down.

Vietnam has now reported 683 cases of local transmission dating from April 27, when its fourth outbreak began, to May 13, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Health, with 3,710 cases of infection and 35 deaths reported since January 2020.

State media reported that Vietnam will receive a further shipment of 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the World Health Organization’s COVAX program on May 16, adding to a first shipment of 800,000 doses received on April 1.

The Ministry of Health, said that 942,030 vaccinations have been given to frontline groups including health workers, police, and military forces as of May 12. A total of 30 million doses of vaccine have been promised by the COVAX program for 2021, with most scheduled for delivery in the second half of the year.

The Ministry is speeding up negotiations with other sources of vaccines to ensure necessary supplies are available for the entire country, Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long said this week.

Six more die in Cambodia

In Cambodia, six more deaths were reported in the last day, bringing the country’s total death count in the pandemic to 142, according to the Ministry of Health. An additional 446 people tested positive over the same period, making a total of 21,141 cases so far, the Ministry said.

Prison officials in Cambodia’s coastal Sihanoukville began moving inmates from the province’s prison to slow the spread of a May 10-11 outbreak, with Prison Department spokesperson Nuth Savana saying that 80 prisoners have been moved, with another 20 to be transferred later.

The transferred prisoners, all of them nearing the end of their sentences, will now be kept in quarantine at Military Police headquarters in Banteay Meanchey province and will be released when their terms in prison end, Nuth Savana said.

Speaking to RFA on May 11, Soeung Senkaruna—spokesperson for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc—welcomed news of the transfers, saying that even more prisoners should be released to prevent overcrowding.

“The Prison Department should do this especially in the case of minor offenses,” he said. “They should also consider releasing political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and environmental activists in order to reduce political tensions [in the country],” he added.

Garment workers in Cambodia are asking employers for time off from their jobs following recent COVID-19 outbreaks in their factories, but managers are denying their requests, with at least 420 factories reporting infections as of May 5, sources say.

Athit Kong, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), has called on the government, factories, and buyers to help workers already out of work because of government-ordered lockdowns. Most are now out of money for food, rent, and payments on loans, he said.

“Factories, buyers, and the government must help the workers. The banks won’t forgive them, and food is getting more expensive.”

Vaccine safety concerns

Residents of Laos are voicing heightened concerns over vaccine safety following the death on May 10 of a 70-year-old woman named Bounnhang who died two days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Speaking at a press conference on May 12, Bandith Xoumphonphakdy—a member of the Lao National Advising Committee on Vaccine Use—said that Bounnhang had already been suffering poor health conditions, including a stomach ulcer that later hemorrhaged, when she received her shot.

“Based on her health and medical records and information about the AstraZeneca vaccine, our medical experts from the Lao Health Ministry, the WHO, and the Lao National Advising Committee concluded that [Bounnhang] died from her own diseases, and that her death was not related to the vaccine she received,” he said.

Many in Laos are reluctant to take the vaccine, fearing possible harm to their health, sources told RFA.

“I’m hesitant about getting vaccinated, because the vaccine may have some side effects,” an older man living in the capital Vientiane said on May 12. “Doctors and nurses should avoid causing deaths like that,” he said.

“I don’t want the vaccine, I’m too scared,” added a woman living in Savannakhet province. “I might have some underlying health conditions that could put me at high risk.”

“The government should explain more about the vaccine and try harder to convince people to take the shot. If somebody dies from being vaccinated, the authorities should pay compensation to the surviving family,” she said.

A villager living in Champassak said that many in Laos still fear the vaccine and feel “scared and pressured by the authorities” to take the shot. “But if something happens to us, no one will take responsibility,” he said.

Speaking to RFA, an official in the Health Department in Vientiane said that only a few people have lost confidence in the vaccine, however.

“Most of them still believe that the vaccine is their best protection. Look, right now hundreds of people are lining up for their shots,” he added.

Cases continue to rise in Laos, with the total number standing at 1,417 as of Wednesday, Ratsamy Vongkhamxao—deputy director general of the Communicable Disease Control Department—told a press conference on May 12.

Though numbers are going down in the capital Vientiane, infections are climbing in Bokeo province in the northern part of the country, with 25 new cases reported on May 12, up from 20 on the previous day and 15 on the day before that, Ratsamy said.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese, Khmer, and Lao Services. Translated by Anna Vu, Samean Yun, and Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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