|Deputy Health Minister Do Xuan Tuyen (black coat) presents a certificate of merit to NIHE scientists for successfully cultivating and isolating the new coronavirus (Covid-19).
This would allow quicker test results and serve as a basis for the development of a vaccine against the deadly virus.
The NIHE is one of two health facilities in Vietnam capable of performing COVID-19 tests. Since the new coronavirus epidemic broke out in Vietnam in late January, the Institute’s scientists have had no day off and have often skipped meals, according to Doctor Vu Mai Phuong, head of the NIHE's Virology Department.
“We work in the lab 10 hours a day. Some work overnight if samples arrive in the evening,” she said.
Some of the scientists were involved in the fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003.
“We have been ready for all contingencies since before the Lunar New Year. We’ll continue to do our best until the outbreak is contained,” said researcher Vuong Duc Cuong, who has worked for the Institute for 24 years.
The scientists are often locked in the lab for hours. They have to wear full protective gear to ensure maximal safety, said Mr. Cuong.
“Our protective suit is similar to that of a deep sea diver. We also have to wear 2 layers of gloves and face masks which make breathing difficult, and work in a room with negative pressure like on an airplane. It’s pretty inconvenient.”
Though working behind the scenes, the scientists are the game-changers in the battle against Covid-19. Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said quick and accurate test results play a crucial role in isolating and treating Covid-19 infections and preventing a spread of the virus.
“Lab scientists are at high risk of infection because they are in direct contact with the virus. Their efforts and morale are greatly appreciated,” said Mr. Long.
There have been 16 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Vietnam to date. 15 of them have since been declared free from the virus and discharged from hospital.