US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi on November 21, 2020. STRINGER/Vietnam News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
A US delegation led by 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 around 1,300 cases throughout the pandemic, while the US is the site of the world’s worst outbreak.
O’Brien and his entourage were tested for COVID-19 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 National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien were treated like “human petri dishes” during a visit to Vietnam, Bloomberg reported, as the US struggles to contain its COVID-19 crisis.
O’Brien, as part of a multi-stop tour of Asia, landed in Hanoi on November 20 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 COVID-19 upon arrival, with the authorities conducting the tests wearing “head-to-toe protective gear,” Bloomberg said.
Members of O’Brien’s delegation were also housed in rooms on the same floor of the Metropole hotel — where 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 arrives at a court in Stockholm, Sweden, during the third day of rapper A$AP Rocky’s trial on August 2, 2019. Fredrik Persson/Reuters
The US and Vietnam vary in size, but Vietnam has been widely considered a success story, recording a total of 1,331 cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths as of Friday morning.
Meanwhile, the US has recorded more than more than 13 million coronavirus cases and more than 260,000 deaths. The US recorded its highest single-day COVID-19 death toll on Wednesday.
It is unclear if all official delegations visiting Vietnam are subject to the same high level of health and safety protocol, but the measures taken 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 were all tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, Kyodo News said. It is 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.
Business Insider has contacted the White House for comment.
Shortly after arriving in the Philippines from Hanoi, a member of O’Brien’s flight crew tested positive for COVID-19, Bloomberg said, adding that two more on the trip have since tested positive.
O’Brien also tested positive for the coronavirus in late July.
Vietnam was hailed internationally for recording zero deaths until July 31. The same day, the US passed 150,000 deaths.
Several Trump advisors, according to Bloomberg, joked that there may be have been more cases of COVID-19 in Trump’s inner circle than there were in Vietnam at the time.
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