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Coronavirus

Hanoi mobilizes Vingroup to make ventilators ahead of next virus wave

Vietnam asks local manufacturers to venture into medical market

Ventilators are a key instrument in the fight against coronavirus.    © AP

HANOI -- The Vietnamese government has ordered companies to manufacture ventilators in a move to bolster the country's defense against the novel coronavirus and other infectious respiratory diseases.

Local companies led by Vingroup, the largest conglomerate in the country, have stepped forward to find partners, secure intellectual properties and carry out research to manufacture the medical equipment.

On Tuesday, Vingroup said it has been successful in manufacturing the prototypes of two kinds of ventilators. This was the result of cooperation and innovation between Vingroup, U.S. university the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and U.S. company Medtronic.

Vingroup said the first batch of ventilators would be ready for final tests mid-May and it expects a similar timeline for obtaining a license to mass produce. Its factory can make 55,000 units a month, is willing to work with other partners to produce the machines for overseas markets.

On April 22, Vietnam became one of the first countries to largely lift a nationwide lockdown. Hanoi, however, is keen to ensure that the country does not run short of medical equipment, particularly ventilators, in view of the second wave of infections that has hit Singapore. The city-state is now facing a surging number of cases of coronavirus despite having initially quelled the spread.

Hanoi's move has to do with the country's proximity to China with which it shares a 1,200 km border and from where various diseases have been imported, including SARS in 2003.

"Vietnam faces challenges to purchase ventilators from overseas," said Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung, as global demand is far outstripping supply.

The Ministry of Health is also supporting the manufacturing of patient monitors, infusion machines and dialysis machines, among others, according to an official document issued earlier in April.

The department has not said how many ventilators are needed but by some estimates, Vietnam has a total of 4,000 ventilators, and Hanoi, one of the biggest health care centers, has only 300 devices.

The government's move is also in line with its ambition to become the region's manufacturing hub. Hanoi wants local manufacturers to tap the medical market and export products. It said its military developed COVID-19 test kits that are now available in some European markets, such as Britain, Finland, Poland, Ukraine and Cambodia.

On April 15, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also asked relevant bodies to lift a ban on the export of medical equipment, such as medical masks and preventive suits, after securing domestic stock.

Vietnamese smartphone maker, BKAV, has also entered the market, saying that its first prototype of ventilators will be ready mid-May.

Previously, Metran, a Japanese company which has a factory in Vietnam, said it would increase output locally to produce ventilators for the domestic market.

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