Border guards stationed in Ca Mau and Gia Lai provinces have received gifts of food and medical assistance for Tet under a programme undertaken by several HCM City organisations.
Mua Xuan Bien Gioi (Spring Comes Early on the Border) offered gifts worth VND400 million (US$19,000) to thousands of soldiers as well as poor people living in remote communes like Ia Pnon, Ia Nan, and Pleiku.
Medical volunteers provided soldiers and villagers with health checks, treatment, and drugs.
Nguyen Minh Tong, head of Border Station 723 in Ia Pon, said his men and officers are from various parts of the country and will not be able to return home for the Lunar New Year.
"We appreciate the support and love offered by organisations and individuals around the country, who bring our soldiers a taste of Tet," he said.
"Your love makes us warm and happy."
There was a show in which performers from traditional art troupes danced and sang folk songs in praise of the country, people, and soldiers.
Elsewhere, members of the HCM City Women's Association visited and gave away books, magazines, blankets, and traditional jams and candy to women and children living in remote areas of Dong Thap, An Giang, and Long An provinces.
They also sent gifts and money to poor families in Phu Yen and Binh Dinh provinces who suffered during the recent floods.
This week more than 200 HCM City university students travelled to rural districts like Nha Be and Can Gio and neighbouring provinces under a volunteering programme organised by the City's Youth Association.
Sinh Vien Don Tet Xa Nha (Migrant Students Welcome Tet 2011) encourages young people in the City to call on and help students living in poor and remote areas and heroic mothers celebrate Tet.
"We wanted to share and celebrate Tet with our friends from other provinces who have to welcome the New Year without their families," Tran Duy Phuoc, a third-year student at the Law University, said.
"We can bring them a happier spring."
Five Filipinos rescued off Vietnam recovering
The five Filipinos rescued off the central coast of Phu Yen are starting to recover on three Vietnamese boats currently fishing at sea, said the local border guards.
At noon Sunday, while fishing for tuna at 12050’N - 1160E around 100 nautical miles northeast from Son Tu Tay island, a Vietnamese boat found the five floating in near exhaustion.
Captain Le Con took them on his boat and fed them. But due to a food shortage, he has called local border guards for help.
Two other Vietnamese fishing boats have since received three of the five victims to recuperate on their boats.
Since the three vessels have to carry out fishing activities in the week, they will take the victims ashore after this lunar New Year.
Highway 1A clogged as vehicles tail up 30 km
By Sunday night, traffic on the arterial national Highway 1A in the central region ground to a halt as vehicles queued up for 30 km from the Ca Mountain Pass in Phu Yen to Khanh Hoa’s Van Gia town.
Many passengers had to leave their buses and lay down on the sidewalks to rest.
Quite a few had to wait on an empty stomach since thousands of cars, coaches and buses were stranded in an open field miles away from the nearest house or food shop.
According to some drivers, the reason for the traffic jam is that a container truck and a passenger bus broke down at the Ca Pass.
The north-south railway also could face a similar fate.
Railway officer Pham Thi Huong told Tuoi Tre that two trucks were stuck on the railway Sunday morning and it took a long time to clear the area.
She suspected that the tracks could be clogged soon with the chaotic current traffic.
More cases of A/H1N1 in northern region
The number of people infected with the A/H1N1 virus in the northern region and Hanoi has increased, said Nguyen Hong Ha, Deputy Head of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases on January 31.
Over the past month, the hospital received nearly 70 patients with flu and 48 of them tested positive for A/H1N1.
The number of A/H1N1 cases in Hanoi will continue to increase because the weather is still very cold and wet and the epidemic is not expected to end until March.
The Ministry of Health recommended people take preventative measures to minimise the risk of infection.
Ministry pledges Tet crowd control
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has made every effort to prepare for the festive season in an attempt to avoid the chaotic events of previous years.
One of the top measures taken this year to maintain security at the coming festivals,forecast to have a large number of participants - was the effective management of the celebrations, said Deputy Minister Ho Anh Tuan.
"Inspections of festival preparations that have been conducted over the last month have shown that local officials have placed an emphasis on forecasting the actual size of events," he said.
"Experience suggests that many past festivals became out of control because their sheer size had been underestimated."
Chaotic images of last year's festivals remain in the minds of many participants, such as the chaos at the Tran Temple in Nam Dinh Province, 90km south of Ha Noi.
Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the historical relic to ask for a stamp, which represents luck and fame, on the night of the 14th of the first lunar month, which led to serious traffic jams and the sale of fake stamps at the event.
Leaders of the provincial Department for Culture, Sports and Tourism admitted that the turn out had been far beyond their expectations.
At a national level, the organisation and management of festivals was no doubt the hottest cultural issue discussed at the National Assembly last year.
Tuan said this could be improved as the number of visitors was forecastable based on reports by tourism companies.
A representative from the Ha Noi Travel Club said participating in spring festivals was a "thing of belief" and the tradition of Vietnamese people.
But given that the festival season mainly lasted for the first three months of the lunar calendar, the number of participants was usually massive, he said. Therefore, organisers and local officials needed to have effective plans to control traffic and manage the festivities, he said.
Contraband alcohol floods Tet market
Fake and smuggled alcohol will flood the markets asTet approaches. The production of fake liquor has posed many health risks for customers.
On January 16, HCM City's District 6 police seized 336 smuggled liquor bottles worth VND600 million (US$31,000). Earlier this month, they seized over 300 unclaimed bottles in the district's Ward 10.
On January 5, central Nghe An Province's police found 3,000 other bottles of unknown origin in Vinh City, all labelled as known brands, including X.O. and R.M. On January10, the Ha Noi police uncovered more than 2,500 fake bottles, each 330ml, at Zuso International Joint Stocks Company based in Chuong My District's Ngoc Son Industrial Zone.
The company director, Trinh Van Truong, admitted to the police that he and his accomplices started making fake alcohol last November. In the daytime, the company produced standard liquor, but at night, they made fake mixes, averaging 1,000 bottles per night.
The Health Ministry's statistics showed that only 10 per cent of 20,000 alcohol producers nation-wide reported their product quality. Most cases of alcohol poisoning were caused by substandard products.
Bach Mai Hospital's Poison Control Centre Director Pham Due said that home-made alcohol could be poisonous if it contains ethyl acetate or furfurol. Products have been reported to contain anywhere from three to 80 times more of these substances than permitted.
The centre recently treated a 35-year-old patient who fell unconscious for four days after drinking 750ml of white wine. The number of cases of alcohol poisoning typically increase during holidays and around Tet and most patients are found to have poisonous methanol in their systems.
The centre received many patients during Tet, most of whom suffered from dizziness, lack of co-ordination and nausea, Due said.
People face different risks depending on the alcohol they drink. Due said that people who drank medical wine, which has herbs or animal parts soaked in wine, were at high risk for poisoning.
The quality of imported herbs is not properly controlled. For example, herbs are often processed by unhygienic means along the side of the road at Ha Noi's herb wholesale market in Ninh Hiep Commune, Gia Lam District in Ha Noi.
Deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Nguyen Minh Tuan, said that after drinking, many people abuse medicine to avoid getting too drunk. But these medicines have yet to be proven safe, and sometimes put more pressure on the liver to process alcohol.
Doctor Due advised that people should not drink more than 50ml of strong alcohol or 700ml of beer a day.
The National Road Safety Committee reported 397 traffic accidents during last year's five-day Tet holiday, with 287 killed and 427 injured. Seventy per cent of the accidents were caused by drunk drivers.