Samaritans in the time of novel coronavirus

By Staff reporters   February 10, 2020 | 04:44 pm PT
With coronavirus fears sending demand for hand disinfectants spiraling, teachers and students at some universities are making them to help the public.

Dao Anh Quang, who has a PhD in chemistry and physical chemistry and is a lecturer at the Hue Industrial College in central Vietnam, has been making a hand sanitizer from alcohol gel with assistance from a group of 20 students.

He puts ethanol, distilled water, nano silver, and citronella oil into a mixing machine, and the process takes 30-40 minutes.

Quang and his students then give away the product for free to anyone in need in front of the school's gate.

There is one condition: people have to bring along two clean bottles in exchange for two bottles of the substance.

Quang says: "We ask people to bring along two clean bottles to make sure we have enough bottles to supply the substance. Everyone has been doing so willingly."

Dao Dao Anh Quang, lecturer at Hue Industrial College in central town of Hue, makes hand disinfection at the schools laboratory. Photo by VnExpress/V.T.

Dao Anh Quang, lecturer at the Hue Industrial College, makes a hand sanitizer in the school laboratory. Photo by VnExpress/V.T.

Every day Quang’s group makes around 200 liters of the disinfectant, but there have been days when they gave away 400 liters.

Nguyen Van Sum of Phu Cat Ward, Hue Town, said he had collected several plastic bottles, cleaned them carefully and went to the Hue Industrial College to get the sanitizer.

Ever since Vietnam confirmed its first cases of the novel coronavirus infection last month, the public have been worried.

Authorities have recommended that people should wear face masks in crowded places and when coming into direct contact with others, and keep their hands clean with either soap or alcohol gel to limit the spread of the infection, and this sent the market for masks and hand sanitizers wild.

As demand kept soaring, stores and pharmacies sold them at much higher prices than normal before running out of supply.

"Under the circumstances, when the nCoV epidemic is still not under control, what this school is doing means a lot to the public," Sum says.

Authorities in Thua Thien-Hue Province had funded Quang with VND50 million ($2,150) to help with his project.

Province chairman Phan Ngoc Tho called on local businesses to give 500 bottles to the school so that more people could benefit.

A team of teachers and students at Thuy Loi (irrigation) University’s chemistry and environment department are doing the same in Hanoi.

Besides providing hand sanitizers for free to the school’s students, the school has also arranged to give them away to the public along with face masks in front of its gate.

Students of Thuy Loi University in Hanoi gives bottles of hand sanitizers to people in need. Photo by VnExpress/Huy Manh

Students of Thuy Loi University in Hanoi give bottles of hand sanitizers to the public. Photo by VnExpress/Huy Manh.

Luu Truong Giang, a lecturer at the university, said he and other teachers and students have been making the gel based on a World Health Organization formula.

"It is a mixture of medical alcohol, glycerin and distilled water.

"This can be done at home too, and the only thing that should be ensured is clear origin of the ingredients. Those who want some fragrance can also add a little essential oil to the gel."

Thanks to Giang and his team, thousands of free bottles of sanitizer of 30-50 ml have been given to the public since January 31.

Since February 1, Vu Tan Phat, 25, chairman of the startup and innovation club at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Science, has also led a team of volunteers, including the school’s students, to make a hand disinfectant to give away to the public.

It is made based on a formula developed by Dr Pham Van Viet, 33, deputy head of the school’s Science and Materials Technology Department.

In the first four days the group had given away 9,000 bottles of 100 ml.

Phat is also sending them to other areas near HCMC.

In a Facebook post on Thursday he said his team had filled 10,000 bottles on that day alone and there was need for more clean bottles. 

Boy’s charity with lucky money

Nguyen Dao, 12, of HCMC received li xi (lucky money) from adults as is the tradition during Tet and had some money of his own.

He took the VND10 million and, with help from his mother who works in the healthcare sector and knows suppliers, bought surgical masks to give away to people in need.

Dao Nguyen 12, issues surgical mask for free along a sidewalk in HCMCs District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Nhat

Nguyen Dao, 12, donates surgical masks to the public on a sidewalk in HCMC's District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Nhat.

Asked why he chose to do this, he says, "I learned from the news that there is this new type of virus and that we need to wear a mask for protection.

"When my family went to buy masks, I could see there were not enough for people standing behind us. Many sellers were selling the products at much higher prices than normal."

He stands on a sidewalk in District 1 along with his mother every evening to give away the masks.

On Friday an anonymous passerby visited his stall and gave him 10 boxes of face masks so that he could continue his good work.

"I feel happy that other people help me in return."

Most cities and provinces across Vietnam, including Saigon and Hanoi, have extended the Lunar New Year break for students, first to February 9 and then to February 16, to contain the spread of the virus.

Dao wishes "the epidemic will end soon so that we could go back to school."

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