2020’s Most Memorable Moments In Vietnam: COVID-19, Typhoons, The Ao Dai Movement, & Celebs’ Deaths

Memorable moments in Vietnam in 2020

For many of us Vietnamese, 2020 has probably been the most eventful year since the turn of the century by far. The first half of the year – and beyond – were all about the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by numerous typhoons that hit Central Vietnam and destroyed many lives. 

Here’s a selection of the memorable events that took place in 2020 that have gotten everyone’s attention this year.

1. Vietnam issues new drinking and driving law to deter reckless driving

Image credit: Dang Cong San

According to Decree 100/2019/NĐ-CP, drivers can now face a hefty fine of VND30,000,000 to VND40,000,000 (~USD1,296.76-USD1729.02) if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds 80 mg/dL.

This is a big raise in the penalty for drinking and driving compared to the former laws for the same offense. 

Surprisingly, many drivers as well as non-drivers expressed their fervent support for this new law because it deters reckless driving and promotes traffic safety. 

2. Cinema legend Chánh Tín passed away in his sleep

Image credit: VTV

On 4th January, actor Nguyễn Chánh Tín, the star of “Cards On The Table” TV drama in the 1980s, was found dead in his bedroom.

To the shock of many, he had died while sleeping. 

Image credit: Tien Phong

Possessing a cinematic appearance, emotive voice, and undeniable charisma, Chánh Tín was beloved and remembered by Vietnamese audiences across the country as Agent Robert Nguyễn Thành Luân, his iconic role in the drama series.

3. Vietnam records its first COVID-19 cases

Image credit: Nhan Dan

On 23rd January Vietnam confirmed the first 2 imported cases of COVID-19 in the country.

By 12th February, both patients had fully recovered and were discharged. But this was just the beginning of the outbreak.

4. Hanoi streets put under quarantine because of Patient 17

Image credit: Bao Cong An

On 6th March, the Ministry of Health announced the first case of COVID-19 to be found in Hanoi – our capital city.

Known as Patient 17, this 26-year-old woman had been travelling across Europe during the outbreak and had lied about her travel history to avoid quarantine when landing in Hanoi. 

Image credit: Quan Doi Nhan Dan

Due to the urgency of the situation, the government declared a state of emergency and set out to track and isolate nearly 200 people who had contact with or lived on the same street with her. 

After the incident, the Vietnam government imposed stricter airport arrival, quarantine, and treatment procedures across the country. 

Image credit: RFI

According to the procedure, people are categorized into 3 groups according to their levels of contact with those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, also known as F0. F1, the ones in close contact with those infected with COVID-19, are to be quarantined in hospitals and observed carefully by medical staff.

F2 and F3 are those who come indirectly in contact with F1 or the infected, and can be quarantined at home or central camps and have their temperatures taken twice a day by medical staff.

5. Vietnam enters semi-lockdown

To curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the community, all parts of Vietnam entered a nationwide social distancing period from 1st April 2020.

During the period, no gatherings of any scale were allowed. All businesses were shut down, save for essential establishments such as supermarkets and pharmacists.

People were strictly required to put on masks and maintain a one-meter distance from one another when in public. 

Many people’s lives were disrupted during this period and they had to find ways to adapt to the “new normal”, from learning and working from home to shopping online. 

Read our interviews with 17 Vietnamese people who shared how COVID-19 has affected their lives.

6. Vietnam lifts its mandatory social distancing period

Image adapted from: 1900

Starting from 23rd April, Vietnam put an end to its 22 day-period of nationwide social distancing. 

Since then, the country has been embracing post COVID-19 economic recovery measures as businesses across the country slowly resumed operations. 

Image credit: Hẻm Bia: Lost in HongKong 

While F&B establishments, bars, and pubs were given the nod to reopen, all were required to take safety precautions such as disinfecting their venues and taking visitors’ temperatures.

7. Diphtheria sent over 1,000 Vietnamese into quarantine

Image credit: VTV

On 20th June, a deadly disease called diphtheria emerged in Dak Nong Province and forced 300 residents into quarantine after it killed a 9-year-old girl. 

As of 25th June, Saigon announced its first known case of diphtheria in the year 2020 and started recommending vaccinations to prevent the disease.

Caused by toxin-producing bacteria called Corynebacterium, diphtheria can cause difficulties in breathing, heart failure, and even death. 

8. FaceApp gender swap became an Internet obsession in Vietnam

Image adapted from: Trúc Nhân and MC Trấn Thành

One photo app trend that reigned supreme throughout June was FaceApp, a popular photo editing application first released in 2017.

Its newly updated gender-swapping filter, which allows users to morph into the opposite gender, went viral on Vietnam’s social media. 

This app was widely used and shared by Vietnamese netizens, influencers, as well as celebrities such as Trúc Nhân, Trấn Thành, and Ngô Kiến Huy. 

9. Vietnam records its first COVID-19 death

Image for illustration purposes only
Image credit:
Ministry of Health

On 31st July, patient 428 in Quang Nam was the first patient in Vietnam to die of COVID-19 complications.

To date, Vietnam has recorded 1,454 COVID-19 cases, 1,319 recovered cases and 35 deaths. 

10. “Rap Viet” and “King of Rap” capture attention

Image credit: Thanh Nien

In August, two Vietnamese rap shows “Rap Viet” and “King of Rap” were aired on national television for the first time. These two shows garnered tremendous attention from local viewers, young and old, and became two highest-viewed shows in Vietnam’s TV history.

For this reason, “Rap Viet” and “King of Rap” have been credited with popularizing Vietnamese hip-hop music among Vietnamese mainstream audiences. 

11. Đà Nẵng went into lockdown because of COVID-19

Image credit: Thanh Tra

In July 2020, Vietnam saw the second wave of COVID-19 taking place mainly in Da Nang city.

Between 24th July and 26th August, Da Nang recorded 386 COVID-19 cases, most of which are community cases. 

Due to the magnitude of the spread, the government decided to impose a citywide social distancing period on 27th July 2020. 

Image credit: Phu Nu Viet Nam

The number of the confirmed cases increased significantly, requiring the government to mobilize medical staff across the country to Da Nang to provide timely assistance.

During the period, many tourists were stranded in the city as inbound and outbound flights and trains were halted. 

Many Da Nang residents rose to the occasion by providing free medical masks and groceries to medical staff and passers-by, while hotels reduced accommodation fees for stranded visitors. 

On 5th September 2020, mandatory social distancing across Da Nang was finally lifted

Read about how our writer was forced to learn how to cook during the Da Nang lockdown here!

12. Vietnam’s first police cavalry unit made its debut

Image credit: VTV

On 8th June, Vietnam’s first police cavalry unit made their debut, parading in Ba Đình Square.

Among the responsibilities of the cavalry units are to transport supplies to remote areas that are not accessible to vehicles, as well as combat criminal activities in these areas. 

The cavalry units will also parade in formal ceremonies, welcoming diplomats and joining horse-racing competitions. 

13. Vietnam wins 5 world culinary records

Crab meat noodle soup (Bún riêu)
Image credit: Trung Bui

Flavorful and healthy, Vietnamese food has increasingly become popular among food lovers all over the world in recent years. However, many don’t know that Vietnamese food is packed with unique ingredients and cooking techniques too. 

On 31st August, the World Record Union awarded Vietnam’s food five culinary world records for the most noodle, salted fish (nước mắm), flower, roll, and rice flour dishes in the world.

14. The revival of the áo dài-wearing tradition among men

Image adapted from: Ỷ VÂN HIÊN 倚雲軒

If 2017 saw a nationwide traditional áo dài movement among female dressers after the release of the blockbuster Cô Ba Sài Gòn, 2020 witnessed the spectacular revival of áo dài among men.

2020 has seen a major shift in young Vietnamese people’s views on áo dài, who have been expressing their support for the revival of the áo dài-wearing tradition among men. 

The movement started with a group of Hue salarymen wearing áo dài to work to promote this old tradition, which then sparked a series of continuing debates on the Internet about whether or not Vietnamese men should wear áo dài in everyday life.

While many objected to the idea, many others have also posted and shared photos showcasing themselves in áo dài to prove their point.

From launching the #VietnameseTraditionalClothing challenge that promotes ao dai-wearing through manga-style characters clad in ao dai, to wearing ao dai on the streets, many young Vietnamese men are becoming more determined in preserving Vietnam’s fashion legacy. 

15. Vietnam Airlines steward triggered the 3rd COVID-19 wave

Vietnam Airlines quarantine building
Image credit: Nguoi Lao Dong

November 2020 was an eventful month for Vietnamese people, with the emergence of several new community cases of COVID-19.

This new strain of community cases was sadly caused by a Vietnam Airlines steward, who flouted quarantine measures before knowing that he was infected with the virus himself. 

During his self-quarantine period from 18th to 28th November 2020, he broke the rules by coming in close contact with his mother and two friends. One of these 3 people was an English teacher at Key English Center who then unknowingly spread the virus to two other people.

Image credit: Nguoi Lao Dong

This new eruption of community cases sent roughly 100 people in different districts into COVID-19 screening and quarantine, while the whole city’s many activities were disrupted. Mask-wearing restrictions were again imposed to curtail contraction risk. 

From 3rd December 2020 until today, Ho Chi Minh City had not recorded any community cases. Patient 1342 has also since been prosecuted for flaunting COVID-19 prevention and quarantine rules and spreading the virus into the community. 

16. Central Vietnam hit by 6 typhoons from October to December

Image adapted from: Tuoi Tre

2020 has been a rough year for Central Vietnamese residents, who had to deal with numerous typhoons that came crashing all at once.

With a series of storms hitting the region back to back, cities such as Huế, Quảng Bình, and Nghệ An saw sustained rainfall and record-high flooding for weeks.

In October 2020, Central Vietnam was hit with typhoons and tropical storms Narki, NANGKA, Saudel, and Molave. Then in November, the region was hit with 3 other typhoons including Goni, Atsani, Etau, and Vamco.

Krovanh, which might have become the last typhoon of 2020, has weakened into a tropical storm and is expected to trigger rain across the Central Highlands today and tomorrow. 


Image adapted from: Tuoi Tre

These natural disasters have taken a toll on many Central Vietnamese residents’ lives, destroyed properties, and forced many to start all over again empty-handed.  To minimize death tolls, regional administrative agencies arranged for many households to be evacuated to safety shelters.

Relief funds are still being raised from all over the country to support the searches for flood victims and building houses for survivors.

17. Vietnamese-German influencer Brittanya Karma died of COVID-19 complications

Image credit: Tuoi Tre

On 29th November 2020, Brittanya Karma, a popular Vietnamese-German influencer, died of COVID-19 complications at the young age of 29.

Always exuding positive energy and bubbly charm, Brittanya Karma had started gaining popularity among Vietnamese viewers about 3 years ago when she started vlogging frequently in the Vietnamese language.

In her iconic videos, she shared about her experiences of being Vietnamese in Germany, communicating with Vietnamese people with her non-fluent Vietnamese, and words of encouragement for those struggling with their body image. 

Image credit: Tuoi Tre

Aside from vlogging, Brittanya Karma was also actively involved in music production. A rapper herself, she was featured in the music video “Lười Yêu” with singer Bảo Anh.

18. Vietnamese volunteers received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Image credit: Nhan Dan

On 17th December, Vietnam-made COVID-19 vaccine Nanocovax was officially tested on healthy volunteers.

Developed by Ho Chi Minh City-based Nanogen Pharma Company, Nanocovax has been effectively tested on animals such as mice, hamsters, and monkeys. 

Image adapted from: Lao Dong

The price per dose, which includes 2 jabs, was quoted by Nanogen to be under VND500,000 (~USD21.63) per person.

The volunteers who’ve received the injections are currently under observation to check for any side effects. Once the vaccination trial achieves successful results, more doses will be distributed to the public from Quarter 2 2021. 

19. Apple’s partner Foxconn may be shifting its assembly lines to Vietnam

Image credit: Android Authority

According to Reuters and Bloomberg, who got the information from a source close to the company, Foxconn is switching some iPad and MacBook assembly operations from China to Vietnam at the request of Apple.

The company is also said to be building its manufacturing facilities in Bắc Giang, a city in Northern Vietnam. 

Image credit: VnExpress

According to Bloomberg, this strategic move by Apple is aimed at minimizing the risks associated with the China-US trade war such as punitive taxes and geopolitical issues on the US-based company after Trump is to leave the White House in 2021.

While Apple has yet to comment on this information, heated discussions have erupted on both Vietnam and Chinese social media regarding the tech empire’s potential move. 

20. Comedian Chi Tai died of a stroke at age 62

Image credit: Danh Hài Chí Tài

Chí Tài (1958-2020), an acclaimed Vietnamese comedian based in the US, died of a massive stroke at the age of 62 in Saigon.

After his funeral in Saigon, his body was flown back to the US where his wife and family members organized a formal funeral and Catholic mass for him. His official funeral in California reportedly drew thousands of fans and former colleagues.  

Throughout nearly 3 decades working in the entertainment industry, Chí Tài has become a household name among music and comedy fans through his impressive comedy skits performed alongside Hoài Linh. 

A recap of Vietnam’s 2020

From COVID-19 to typhoons to the sudden death of influential artists, 2020 has been full of unpleasant surprises. Even though we have had a hard time adapting to the new challenges brought about by these uncontrollable events, let’s be proud that we have weathered the storm and are still standing strong. 

Here’s to hoping that 2021 will usher in hope for the future and joy for households across the country.

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Cover image adapted from: Vietnamnet, Báo Văn Hóa, Danh Hài Chí Tài, and Ỷ VÂN HIÊN 倚雲軒

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Josee Ng

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