What a year it has been! We find ourselves in the last few days of 2021, hopefully surrounded by loved ones, friends, and family, with good food and good cheer. 

No matter what walk of life you come from, 2021 in Vietnam has not been the easiest twelve months. We have shouldered the brunt of the COVID-19 fourth wave together, and we are emerging from the end of the year with vaccination rates on our side, restrictions slowly lifting, children going back to school, and plans for borders to fully reopen. 

Thus, as 2021 winds down, we take stock of this particularly eventful year, the good, the bad, and the exciting. Here are 10 eventful stories to wrap up the year.

1. COVID-19 Vaccination Programme Starts in Vietnam

A woman receives an injection as Vietnam
A woman receives an injection as Vietnam starts its official rollout of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, in Hanoi, on March 8, 2021 // Photo on Reuters

Vietnam started the year amongst the best countries in the world in dealing with the pandemic, lauded for its decisive actions such as border closures, mass testing, and quarantine programmes. 

This approach was successful with the initial COVID-19 variants before the more contagious and severe Delta variant appeared. In the face of more aggressive strains, Vietnam began their COVID-19 vaccination programme to protect their citizens and residents in March 2021. 

Looking down the barrel of the fourth wave, which was to be the worst outbreak in Vietnam, healthcare workers were first in line to receive the vaccines, followed by front-line workers, and then the elderly. 

2. SOS Map Created to Aid Grassroots Efforts in Feeding Micro-Communities During Severe Lockdowns

SOS Map
Users can then fill in the amount of items they can give away or are seeking // Photo on saigoneer.com

In the thick of strict lockdowns across Vietnam, and especially the military-assisted lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City, food scarcity was a real concern particularly amongst the lower income groups. 

Many family breadwinners had either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. Moreover, global and domestic supply chains were affected. This led to many individuals and households facing the problem of getting their basic needs met. 

Good Samaritans came together to build a mobile application called ‘SOSmap’, where households in need could connect with those that were able to give and share food and supplies. This was created by tech firm XTEK, the Vietnam Women's Union; the Institute of Science, Technology and Rural Development; and a women’s union under the Ministry of Public Security, and helped countless households. 

3. Epicentre of COVID-19 Outbreak HCMC Lifts Lockdown after 5 Months

The Dien Bien Phu Roundabout
The Dien Bien Phu Roundabout in HCMC's District 1 when the city is under Covid-19 restrictions in August 2021 // Photo by Thanh Nguyen / VnExpress

After 5 months of continuous lockdown of varying degrees in the COVID-19 pandemic centre of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City released a directive on easing the restrictions and living with the virus. 

With the outbreak under control in most HCMC districts and wide swaths of the over-18 population vaccinated, the city government decided that it was time to regain a sense of some normalcy. This was good news for restaurants, businesses, and households who looked forward to resuming normal activities with their green pass. 

4. Wearing Cong Tri at the 2021 Emmy Awards, Catherine O’Hara was Named Top 10 Best Outfits by Harper's Bazaar

Catherine O’Hara in her Cong Tri creation
Catherine O’Hara in her Cong Tri creation // Photo on AFP

Canadian-American actor Catherine O’Hara joins the ranks of many notable celebrities who have worn Cong Tri at high-profile entertainment events. O’Hara wore a fire engine red Cong Tri chiffon jumpsuit with a dashing train to the 2021 Emmy Awards. 

Her eye-catching ensemble made it to the top 10 best dressed attendees as named by Harper’s Bazaar. The fashion magazine said that the Cong Tri creation ‘brought some colour to the red carpet’. 

5. The Very First Metro Line in Vietnam Opens in Hanoi

A train of the Cat Linh – Ha Dong metro line in Hanoi, Nov. 4, 2021 // Photo by Ngoc Thanh / VnExpress

Vietnam’s first ever metro line opened in Hanoi in November, creating more public transport options for the residents and making the city more liveable. This step forward in urban connectivity came after 10 years of construction. Construction began in October 2011 and the metro was initially slated to be completed by 2016. 

Overcoming delays and construction issues, the metro line has started to operate with free travel for passengers for the first 15 days. Opening to much fanfare and excitement, 26,000 commuters caught the train on its first day of operation. This is progress in combating the city’s pressing issues with traffic congestion and worrying air pollution. 

6. Schools Reopen in Hanoi and HCMC in Limited Capacity as Youth Vaccination Rates Increase

Schools Reopen in Hanoi and HCMC in Limited Capacity
All furniture is disinfected using the Chloramine B solution // Photo on VnExpress

Kids and parents alike were apprehensive but excited about schools reopening in the major cities of Vietnam after a prolonged online school only period and repeated in-person schooling closures since the start of the year. Vietnam started vaccinating youths in the last quarter of 2021, with children aged 12 to 17 eligible for the shots. 

With high take up rates and 5k measures in place, schools in Hanoi and HCMC opened in-person learning for selected grades, particularly those in exam year groups from December 2021 onwards. The pilot programme has many safety measures in place, and if it goes well, could be extended to other year groups, which students, teachers, and parents look forward to. 

7. Vietnam’s Journey in the ASEAN Football Federation Championship Ends After Valiant Efforts 

Coach Park Hang-seo speaks
Coach Park Hang-seo speaks at a press conference in Singapore, December 4, 2021 // Photo on Vietnam Football Federation

Vietnam is the defending champions of the ASEAN Football Federation Championship (AFF Cup) hosted biennially and joined by the national football teams of Southeast Asia. Last held in 2018, Vietnam won the tournament against Malaysia in a nail biting 3-2 victory. The 2020 cup was delayed due to COVID-19 and has been held in a centralised zone in Singapore. 

Vietnam’s football team played many good games this year, making it to the semifinals of the AFF cup. Despite valiant efforts to defend their title, Vietnam lost 0-2 to Thailand on 26 December 2021. Coach Park Hang Seo of the Vietnam team noted that ‘the team have given all they got’. Five-time winners Thailand will face Indonesia in the final on December 29 and January 1.

8. Vietnamese Architects Win Big at International Dezeen Awards

'Bat Trang House' in Hanoi
'Bat Trang House' in Hanoi // Photo courtesy of VTN Architects

The world’s most popular design magazine Dezeen organises the Dezeen Awards for architecture, interiors, and designs annually to identify the world’s best projects. In the 2021 iteration of the awards, three Vietnamese architects have bagged prizes in the following categories: Emerging Architecture Studio Of The Year; Civic Building Of The Year; and Urban House Of The Year. 

The architectural firms that won these international accolades are ODDO Architects, HGAA firm for ‘My Montessori Garden’, and VTN Architects for ‘Bat Trang House’ respectively. Almost 5000 entries from 86 countries participated in the Dezeen Awards 2021. 

9. First Regular Direct Flight from US to Vietnam Starts its Route

A Vietnam Airlines flight from San Francisco lands at Da Nang International Airport
A Vietnam Airlines flight from San Francisco lands at Da Nang International Airport in central Vietnam, December 1, 2021 // Photo courtesy of Vietnam Airlines

Vietnam Airlines, the state-owned flag carrier of Vietnam, broke new ground with its non-stop flight from San Francisco to Da Nang in December 2021. This is the first regular direct service flight operated by a domestic carrier from America to Vietnam. 

The airlines explained that the flight landed in Da Nang as requested by the Vietnamese government due to quarantine regulations. However, the regular flight will be conducted twice a week from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco. The aim is to increase this to seven flights a week and to open a new route connecting Los Angeles to Hanoi, thereby covering Vietnam’s two largest cities. 

10. Vietnam Welcomes its First International Tourists After Two Years of Closed Borders

Vietnam Airlines staff welcome foreign tourists arriving at Da Nang International Airport
Vietnam Airlines staff welcome foreign tourists arriving at Da Nang International Airport, November 17, 2021 // Photo courtesy of Vietnam Airlines

At the early stages of the global outbreak of COVID-19, the Vietnamese government made the decisive action to close their borders in March 2020. Sealing its borders was a strategic move in safeguarding the health of its citizens against the pandemic. 

As vaccination rates increase across the world, the tourism and hospitality industry in Vietnam yearns for resumption of international tourism activism. Responding to this, Vietnam is reopening its borders with a multi-stage plan. 

The first stage happened in November 2021 with Vietnam welcoming its first international tourists under a sandbox programme. The flight from South Korea contained 29 foreign tourists from over 11 countries. This is a start to welcoming thousands more tourists under the vaccination passport package tour programme. 

The Year Ends in Vietnam with a Cautious yet Hopeful Outlook 

Vietnam had the COVID-19 outbreak mostly under control this year until the Delta variant started spreading in April
Vietnam had the COVID-19 outbreak mostly under control this year until the Delta variant started spreading in April // Photo by Thanh Hue / Reuters

As we close yet another year, we look back and take into account all that we went through in 2021. Not an easy year for Vietnam (and the world) by any measure, but the country has managed to end 2021 on a lighter note. 

Vietnamese athletes, artists, and designers have done the country proud by winning plenty of international accolades and recognition this year, putting Vietnam ever more firmly on the map. 

Having dealt outstandingly with COVID-19 in 2020, the Delta variant was a show stopper in Vietnam, which the government and people bravely faced together. 

Through the trying periods of disruptive lockdowns and for many, the loss of household incomes, private businesses and individuals stepped up to feed and care for their neighbours and others in need. 

With the COVID-19 vaccination programme progressing in pace and the government being on the lookout for the Omicron variant, residents feel safer and look forward to a more open 2022. 

The solidarity and support shown through the tough times of 2021 highlights the true spirit of kindness and resilience of the nation, and this is our greatest take-away from the year. 

Vietnam Is Awesome wishes you and your loved ones a Happy New Year! 

May 2022 bring Vietnam health and happiness! Join us over at Facebook to share more news and tips for living in Vietnam.