While the international media publicized widely on the COVID 19 success story of New Zealand and Korea, Vietnam is one overlooked successful nation to flatten the COVID 19 curve and less highlighted.
Vietnamese say “when China sneezes, Vietnam is the first to catch the cold”. This is because it shares a long border with China and millions of influx of Chinese nationals for business and tourism each year. USA reported its first case on 21st January and two days later on 23rd January 2020, Vietnam reported its first case. Five months later as per 23rd June USA has 2.36 million confirmed cases and 122,000 deaths, Vietnam haveonly 349 cases with 328 recovered and 0 deaths. Vietnam is already into its reopening phase.
Looks like a fairy tale story in terms of fight against COVID 19 for a country with population of 95.5 million. How is this even possible for a developing nation with limited health infrastructures and personnel? Well, one reason might be that they are “used to” fighting similar type of epidemics in the past may it be SARS or the Avian Influenza. So they took the COVID 19 situation very seriously unlike the US president Donald Trump who just regarded it as“mere flu”.
Starting from February, anyone arriving at an airport in major Vietnamese city had to go through compulsory body temperature screening and fill in the health self-declaration, their contact details and their travel and health history. Those who have lied in their self-declaration or who resist self-declaring would be criminally charged. These measures have now been made compulsory to those entering government building or hospitals. Also the COVID-19 mobile application was developed and encouraged the general public to fill in the personal details and possible symptoms through the app.
Vietnam has validated three different test kits each costing less than US$ 25 and producing results in 90 minutes. These kits are manufactured in Vietnam itself and have helped intensify mass testing. The government also promoted the local garment industries to produce PPE and medical masks through subsidies which they now export to other countries like USA. Contact tracing is also very reliable as it mobilized mass personnel including “light mobilization” of national army.
Since mid-February, Vietnamese/foreigners coming from abroad has been quarantined for 14 days on arrival and tested for COVID 19.Schools were shut in February. In March, Vietnam started to lockdown the whole cities and targeted hotspots. Travelling between cities was highly restricted. Infected persons details were published and anyone who has come in direct contact with them were encouraged to come forward for quarantine and were put into mandatory quarantine. Though,controversial in terms of human rights violation, this strategy worked.
From early January, Vietnam government has communicated aggressively about the seriousness of COVID-19. Celebrities launched the “viral challenge” through songs, animated videos, manga etc. The most interesting thing observed in Vietnam case was that people took the government information and warning seriously and all obeyed the social distancing measures, followed the isolation protocol and took the expert advice seriously.
Vietnam is fully aware that the situation is not fully averted until the development of reliable vaccine and treatment. The country keenly remains alert.
Vietnam is reopening and its corona virus containment effort may help avoid recession. There is also high chance that USA might potentially shift their companies from China to the Vietnam amid the cold war ongoing between the USA and China. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that Vietnam economic growth may slow down to 2.7% but may pick up to 7 % in 2021.
Though some controversial measures were imposed, Vietnam is one success story that every nation should take lesson from.