Vietnam has been heaped with praises from the United Nations and the World Health Organizations for its exemplary efforts in containing the Covid-19 pandemic. As a developing nation, it has adopted some extreme measures but was sensible enough to choose prevention early. Having faced such pandemics earlier, Vietnam shows the way in combating the deadly virus. Mumeninaz Zaman writes
After discovering just six infected patients in the country Vietnam declared the virus an epidemic, one of the first countries to do so. The World Health Organization was quick to praise the country saying: “Early detection, early isolation, and active treatment is extremely important. Vietnam’s early actions stopped the further spread of the disease, saving thousands of lives.”
Despite sharing a 1400-km long border with China, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, Vietnam with a population of 96 million has been able to halt the spread of the virus in a considerable way. While the country is facing poor economic conditions with limited technological capacities, the country’s response to the outbreak has received acclaim for its immediacy, effectiveness and transparency, in contrast to the alleged cover-up in China, and the poor preparation in the United States and in European countries.
While the pandemic showed some powerful countries working cluelessly, Vietnam demonstrated how early prevention could be a chain breaker of the deadly virus. As on September 25, Vietnam recorded no new COVID-19 infections, with a tally of 1,069, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control announced. This day also marks the 23rd consecutive day without community transmissions. The fatalities in the country stand at 35.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has characterized Vietnam’s efforts against the COVID-19 as the “spring general offensive of 2020,” a reference to the military offensive that defeated U.S. imperialism in 1975.
Having fought various wars, Vietnam waged a war against the invisible enemy by mobilising all its resources, including the army, to cope with the disease. On February 1, the country launched a series of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including suspending all flights to and from China and closing all schools and universities, suspending visa exemption for citizens of some countries; closing cinemas, clubs, bars, massage parlours and karaoke rooms; and banning gatherings of more than 10 people.
Early on the government made firm decisions to prioritise and preserve the health of its people even if it would come at the cost of the economy
Moreover, having experienced other deadly diseases, including the SARS 2003, avian flu, malaria and other epidemics, Vietnam’s response was quick and pro-active.
Reportedly, when only 27 Covid-19 cases had been detected in Wuhan City in mid-December 2019, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health issued prevention guidelines, including close monitoring of border areas and other steps to prevent infection of its population.
As China confirmed its first death officially, due to the novel coronavirus on 11 January, unlike other countries the Vietnamese government kicked off with mass quarantines, effective public health communication, a focused testing regime and uncharacteristic transparency.
The Vietnamese government called for a national emergency after only the 6th case was reported and was fast in implementing social distancing, forced quarantines as well as targeted testing and tracing.
Comprehending the fact that being a so-called developing nation medical system would soon become overwhelmed by even mild spread of the virus, hence Vietnam choose prevention early, and in a focused manner. Rather than embarking on mass testing Vietnam focused on isolating infected people and tracking on their contacts.
Apart from aggressive tracing, the government has adopted measures that have also included forced quarantines and the conscription of medical students, retired doctors and nurses to join the fight.
Massive information campaigns were started to inform the public about the pandemic, thereby maintaining transparency on what people could expect and had to do, including following the basic COVID-19 rules. The government launched a website and a mobile application not only to ease the medical process but also to disseminate accurate information quickly. The digital apparatus also helped stop the spread of rumours and fake news, in addition to legal enforcement against people who spread inaccurate information or engage in profiteering.
Vietnam’s proactive efforts do not just limit to containing the virus, the close cooperation between various organizations along with the government describes the true essence of Spring Offensive 2020.
As per reports, to minimize workers and their families being affected by the lockdown, the government approved a 111.55 million dollar financial support package that includes covering all costs for workers in quarantine or who are recovering from the disease. To maintain food security, the government provided essential goods to neighbourhoods in lockdown, installed free rice dispensing ATMs and put a halt to rice exports to other countries.
Vietnam is slowly opening up after social distancing has proved successful. Restrictions are being eased in various parts of the country and the government has restarted some international flights. After its success in the fight against Covid-19, it is now time for Vietnam to focus its efforts on reviving the economy.
With one of the lowest number of cases and deaths worldwide, Vietnam’s COVID-19 journey has stood out in Southeast Asia and across the world.
The government as well as the public coordination has largely been credited for the country’s success in keeping COVID-19 transmission rates under control.
At times Vietnam’s response to Coronavirus has also faced criticism in the western mainstream media, who often called this response authoritarian.
Nevertheless, as a mark of solidarity, it has donated 550,000 masks to Europe, sent 450,000 protective suits to the U.S., donated medical and testing equipment to Cambodia & Laos and testing kits to Indonesia.