Though Vietnam was able to stop any significant outbreaks of COVID-19 during 2020, unfortunately an outbreak of the Delta strain has been slowly spreading across the country since March 2021 – and it has recently reached Quang Tri. The province has seen more than 100 cases since 15 September, both in Dong Ha city and in several other districts, and many areas are now under lockdown.
All NPA operational activities in Quang Tri province have been suspended since 16 September 2021, in compliance with provincial government directives and to stop the further spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately the case numbers continue to increase every day.
The provincial government has mobilized teams of healthcare staff who travel across the province to high-risk groups, providing COVID tests in an attempt to track and slow the spread of the disease. The Quang Tri Department of Foreign Affairs and the Provincial COVID-19 Steering Committee recently approached NPA for assistance with driving these frontline personnel to COVID-affected areas to enable their work.
Since 28 September, and with the support of the United States government, NPA has provided three vehicles with volunteered drivers for use during the provincial COVID response. In addition Quang Tri Mine Action Centre (QTMAC) were also able to provide similar support.
“I have volunteered to drive medical staff of the Dong Ha Medical Centre to areas under lockdown and other high-risk areas in order to conduct COVID test for the community,” said Mr Phan Khac Cuong, an NPA non-technical survey team member. “I’m very happy to have the chance to make small contribution to the fight against the epidemic in my province – and thanks to that, I understand more about hard the work of the medical staff and other volunteers, and how special the value of love among human beings and Vietnamese people is.”
The safety of NPA volunteers is a priority for the province, and all volunteer drivers were equipped with personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, glasses and protective suits. Vehicles were also fitted with a plastic divider to separate the driver from the healthcare staff that were being transported, to reduce the risk of infection. NPA vehicles are also disinfected at the end of each working day.
“I am aware of the risk for myself and my family when doing this voluntary job. However, I want to contribute to this job so the COVID testing progress is not delayed. While being on this duty, I have tried my best to minimize close contacts with other people,” Mr. Cuong said.
NPA has prepared an additional 22 vehicles with drivers available to support the province if the COVID situation continues to worsen.
“NPA, and our donors from the governments of the United States and Norway, are always happy to help the people of Quang Tri province - whether through mine action activities or by supporting the provincial response to emergency situations like COVID-19 or last year’s extreme flooding,” said NPA Country Director Jan Erik Støa. “I hope the COVID situation is brought under control soon, so Quang Tri’s people are safe and so our teams can continue their important survey and clearance work.”
Mr Hoang Minh Thanh, and NPA clearance team member, said he’s very happy to have the chance to help people in his province. “I am very happy and proud to contribute to making people safe,” he said. “It is somehow same same as our mine action work.”
NPA would like to thank the Government of the United States for enabling this important COVID-19 response, and for their continued support of mine action in Quang Tri province.