Residents wear protective face masks as they ride motorbikes on a street after the government eased the nationwide lockdown during the COVID-19 outbreak in Hanoi, Vietnam April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Kham
Culture Spotlight

With no deaths and low case counts, Vietnam comes out of its lockdown

Plus, more countries starting to lift restrictions, or planning to. And beloved franchises release virtual meetings backgrounds for your next video conference. BY JACS T. SAMPAYAN
ANCX | Apr 26 2020

As the world remains mired in COVID-19 case counts and alarming updates, it’s hard to look past everyone’s grim newsfeeds. But opening our eyes wider to a bigger world that is, albeit slowly, starting to stand up should give us hope—or at least an easier day. ANCX will regularly gather positive developments in different corners of the globe to show that, in trying to move forward, we can confidently train our eyes upward.

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Vietnam starts lifting restrictions and reopening shops

Last Thursday, Vietnam started easing from its nationwide lockdown, following a largely successful containment of the coronavirus. So far, the government has not recorded any deaths and has had no new case in the last week. Since relaxing restrictions, Vietnamese residents have been allowed to gather in small numbers, and to use mass transportation. However, schools will remain closed for the time being as well as international flights. Even before COVID-19 cases were recorded in the country—as early as mid-January—Vietnam quickly instituted many measures, including banning travel from China and suspending schools. While their contact tracing and isolation methods were aggressive—even going far as immediately quarantining travelers in army barracks—it has kept their hospitals from being overrun. Some say that the country’s ability to react to a health crisis with agility can be attributed to their one-party system. While this political structure is criticized for its inflexible and controlling nature, quick and widespread response might be more possible through it. In the early 2000s, the nation was also the first to control SARS as it ravaged the region.

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New Zealand will come out of lockdown by tomorrow

Tomorrow, New Zealand will start easing from its month-long nationwide coronavirus lockdown, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern commenting that the country has done “what very few countries have been able to do.” By late evening on April 27, it will bring down its current alert level down a notch, and will stay there for two weeks. During this time, some businesses and schools will be reopened, and restrictions on travel will be relaxed as well. Small gatherings such as for intimate weddings and funerals will also be allowed. The country’s quick and decisive response has apparently led to its relatively low infection numbers.

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Studio Ghibli releases free backgrounds for virtual meetings

If you’re one of many work-from-home employees managing through the lockdown, you might be video conferencing more than usual these days. To help perk up your virtual meeting, Studio Ghibli just released 12 free vidcon backgrounds that feature stills from their beloved animated films. These include My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Most of these backgrounds are 1,920 by 1,080 pixels wide, and are just the right size for such apps as Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams. You can download the files from the Studio Ghibli website.

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Star Wars also releases video conferencing backgrounds

Here are more options for your next zoom meeting. Star Wars released several high-resolition backgrounds based on destinations throughout its movie universe. These include the Death Star, planet Hoth, the Imperial Star Destroyer—and other working environs that lend an air of awesomeness to any serious vidcon. A total of 31 large-resolution backgrounds are available to be downloaded from the official Star Wars website.

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A non-profit produces 70,000 meals daily to feed the hungry in Mumbai

KhaanaChahiye, which means “need food” in Hindi, started a massive feeding program for Mumbai as the country deals with the effects of the world’s biggest COVID-19 lockdown. Working with six food centers, the initiative provides meals for the migrant workers and poor families that can not earn during this crisis. The program, which was driven by the non-profit organization Project Mumbai, is already churning about 70,000 meals a day, but is seeking to add more. The initiative’s website, KhaanaChahiye.com, will serve as platform to collect donations as well as alert the team on areas that need food.

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Italy to release plans on moving past its lockdown soon

In a Facebook post, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently announced that the government will be releasing plans on how the country will exit its lockdown. The Italian head of state believes that this will likely be in the first week of May, and he cautions that they will only proceed in line with “serious scientific policy.” As more and more of Italy’s neighbors begin easing out of restrictions, Conte shares that his administration is working on moving to more mobility, and “co-existing” with the virus.

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