The US national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi on November 21. STRINGER/Vietnam News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
A US delegation led by the national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, was treated like “human petri dishes” in Vietnam, Bloomberg reported.
O’Brien landed in Hanoi on November 20 ahead of talks with a series of officials before leaving for the Philippines on November 21.
Vietnam has been a coronavirus success story, recording about 1,300 cases throughout the pandemic, while the US has recorded the most COVID-19 cases and deaths of any country.
O’Brien and his entourage were tested for the coronavirus upon arrival, housed on the same floor of a Hanoi hotel, and had their meals left outside their doors, Bloomberg said.
The US Air Force team that piloted O’Brien’s plane was not permitted to enter Vietnam and spent the night in neighboring Thailand.
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A delegation of US officials led by the White House national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, was treated like a group of “human petri dishes” during a visit to Vietnam, Bloomberg reported, as the US struggles to contain its COVID-19 crisis.
O’Brien landed in Hanoi on November 20 as part of a tour of Asia and met with a series of officials the next day before leaving for the Philippines.
During the visit, O’Brien’s Vietnamese hosts made every effort to keep the delegation isolated, Bloomberg said, ensuring that their exposure to others was minimized.
All of those on the trip were tested for the coronavirus upon arrival, with the authorities conducting the tests wearing “head-to-toe protective gear,” Bloomberg said.
Members of O’Brien’s delegation were also said to be housed in rooms on the same floor of the Metropole hotel — where President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February 2019 — with hotel staff leaving the team’s meals “outside the US guests’ doors,” the report said.
Vietnamese officials also did not permit the US Air Force crew in charge of O’Brien’s plane to pass customs and enter Vietnam, leaving them to fly to Thailand and wait until O’Brien had finished his trip, Bloomberg reported.
O’Brien arriving at a court in Stockholm during the third day of the rapper A$AP Rocky’s trial on August 2, 2019. Fredrik Persson/Reuters
Vietnam has been widely considered a coronavirus success story, recording 1,331 COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths as of Friday morning.
The US, whose population is about 3 1/3 times the size of Vietnam’s, has recorded more than more than 13 million coronavirus cases and more than 260,000 deaths, both the most of any country. The US recorded its highest single-day COVID-19 death toll on Wednesday.
It is unclear whether all official delegations visiting Vietnam are subject to the same high level of health and safety protocol, but the measures described for O’Brien’s trip are clearly severe.
Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, visited Vietnam with a small entourage on October 18, and they were all tested for the coronavirus upon arrival, Kyodo News said. It is not clear how the Japanese delegation was accommodated.
Photos from O’Brien’s official engagements show that neither he nor top Vietnamese officials wore masks, but they did appear to practice social distancing.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shortly after arriving in the Philippines from Hanoi, a member of O’Brien’s flight crew tested positive for the coronavirus, Bloomberg said, adding that two more on the trip had since tested positive.
O’Brien tested positive for the coronavirus in late July.
Vietnam was hailed internationally for recording zero COVID-19 deaths until July 31. The same day, the US death toll passed 150,000.
Several Trump advisors, according to Bloomberg, joked that there might have been more cases of COVID-19 in Trump’s inner circle than there were in Vietnam at the time.
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