Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jan 30 (efe-epa).- Vietnam on Saturday announced that it had approved the Covid-19 vaccine developed by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, the first to be authorized in the country.
It comes amid a sudden new outbreak of the virus, with 34 new cases reported Saturday.
AstraZeneca has pledged to supply 30 million doses of the vaccine in 2021 and the first batch is expected to arrive within the first quarter of the year, Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a statement.
Hanoi is also exploring possibilities with Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccine developers, he added.
In addition, Vietnam has already begun human trials for two local vaccines, one developed by the company Nanocovax as well as Covivac, a project of the health ministry.
The announcement came hours after authorities confirmed 34 new cases of Covid-19, including 32 in Hui Doung province – the epicenter of the latest outbreak – where authorities have shut down the airport, suspended public transport and enforced social distancing measures.
This took the total number of cases registered since Thursday, when the first community transmission was reported after 55 days, to 180, including two in capital Hanoi, where the Communist Party congress is being held this week to elect the national leadership.
The nearly 1,600 delegates of the Communist Party of Vietnam, who have gathered in the capital’s National Convention Center from around the country for the last five days, on Saturday decided to cut short the event by a day due to the outbreak. The congress will now end on Monday instead of Tuesday, local media reported.
The sudden outbreak has dampened the triumphant mood in which the congress began on Jan. 25, with congratulatory speeches over the successful containment of the epidemic and limiting economic losses.
One of the lead figures at the event, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, has increased public appearances in recent days and urged quick and decisive action from local governments over the outbreak, while appealing for calm.
The government has ordered PCR testing of all hospital staff across the country and the patients of any serious illness, as well as 30 percent of the remaining patients, in order to detect all possible infections.
Although the number of cases is relatively low compared to other countries, the reappearance of local infections has caused a commotion in Vietnam, which has registered only 1,684 cases and 35 deaths due to the disease so far.
The outbreak also comes just a week before the Lunar New Year, the biggest holiday in Vietnam, during which millions of people travel across the country to visit family and sightsee. EFE-EPA