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Vietnam, Battling 10,000 Daily Covid Cases, Begs WHO for Vaccines

Despite skirting mass coronavirus infections during 2020 due to strict lockdown measures, Vietnam is now battling a devastating surge in cases.

Amid the rise of the Delta variant, which has overwhelmed Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnamese government is urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to send more vaccines. According to Reuters, Vietnam lags far behind neighboring countries, with just 2 percent of its 98-million-strong population inoculated against the virus.

The vast majority of the country’s 370,000 cases have been detected since May, the publication wrote, with daily infections surging to 10,000 for the first time this month. Hospitals in the southern part of Vietnam have been overloaded—a condition that could worsen as other countries seek to administer third doses, or “booster” shots, while Vietnam struggles to procure first doses for the vast majority of its citizens.

In a letter to WHO Tuesday, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh asked that COVAX, the vaccine-sharing program, send shipments of the vaccine “in the fastest manner and with the largest volume possible.”

Vietnam has to date received 2.7 million doses from China, and the Chinese ambassador announced Tuesday that 2 million more vaccines from the country were on the way. On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris said that the U.S. would donate 1 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to Vietnam.

The worsening infection rates could spell disaster for Western brands from Nike to H&M, Patagonia, The North Face and Wolverine, among many others that depend on the country’s manufacturing sector. Earlier this month, the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) reported that skyrocketing cases had forced about one-third of the country’s footwear and apparel factories to suspend operations, troubling brands from The Buckle to Puma to Under Armour to Crocs. Shipment delays on product from overseas have persisted, punctuated by production shutdowns and slowdowns for nearly a year.

Sofia Nazalya, Asia analyst at risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft, told Sourcing Journal earlier this month that Vietnam’s government is unlikely to allow factories to operate even with stricter health and safety guidelines in place, as manufacturers in countries like Bangladesh have been allowed to do. Vietnam’s Covid containment strategy has relied on strict social distancing guidelines, and the government is unlikely to pull back on that “consistent approach” now, she said.

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The delivery of vaccines remains slow, according to Reuters, which reported that Vietnam has introduced new lockdown measures and engaged troops to restrict residents’ movements in Ho Chi Minh City. Earlier this month, authorities extended curfews and workplace regulations in the city, where 64 percent of the country’s daily caseload is concentrated. The regulations, along with worsening unemployment in the city, fueled an exodus of workers headed for their rural hometowns. Officials have reportedly erected roadblocks in order to contain movement and slow the virus’ spread.