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Vietnam asks Samsung to find it some COVID-19 vaccines

Double-mutant strain puts electronics factories at risk

Vietnam’s government has asked Samsung to find COVID-19 vaccinations to protect workers in provinces that are home to industrial parks, a request that reflects the co-dependence between the Korean Chaebol and the rapidly developing nation.

The call for Samsung’s help came as Vietnam on Saturday announced detection of a COVID-19 strain “combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK”. Local authorities rated the variant “very dangerous”, suggesting it could be a contributor to a fourth wave of infections that have in recent weeks seen over 3,000 verified new cases – more than half of Vietnam’s whole-of-pandemic total of 6,713 recorded infections.

As a result of the new wave, the nation’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City will go into a 15-day lockdown on May 31st to control the spread of the virus.

On Sunday Prime minister Pham Minh Chinh singled out the provinces of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang as requiring special action and vigilance. The two regions are to the northeast of Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, and are home to many of the nation's electronics manufacturing factories. As that industry is the nation’s biggest export earner and sees tens of thousands of people work in close proximity, it is an obvious risk. That many workers commute from Hanoi is also of concern.

Samsung operates facilities in both provinces and detected COVID-infected staff in its Bac Giang plant.

Vietnam’s government has implemented a raft of safety measures to be implemented at the two provinces’ extensive industrial parks.

And the prime minister has also called on Samsung, alongside local authorities, to find vaccines for deployment in the provinces.

Vietnam has singled out Samsung because the Korean company employs over 150,000 locals and is the largest foreign investor in the country. A certain co-dependence exists between the two: Samsung relies on Vietnam for manufacturing expertise, while Vietnam relies on Samsung as an employer and source of export revenue.

Samsung Vietnam last week donated 1,000 food packages, following from a 2020 donation of personal protective equipment, so the company is clearly willing to contribute.

With COVID-19 surging in Vietnam and details of the new variant due to be released soon, Samsung could soon find itself having to make larger contributions to sustain important facilities. ®


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