Even after a long border with China, and a population of more than 97 million people, Vietnam has recorded just over 300 Covid 19 cases and no deaths till now. According to experts, unlike any other countries, Vietnam only got one small window and used the opportunity fully. Even now, if you are entering a café in Vietnam, there’s a good chance of meeting a security guard who will spray hand sanitizers on your palms. Even if you are getting on a bus, you’ll be asked to put on the mask and sit one row apart from other commuters.
However, this cost-effective and labor-intensive approach has its own set of drawbacks and experts believe it is too late for other countries to learn from Vietnam.
It’s already six months into the Covid 19 pandemic, and Vietnam still practices required health measures even after the nation reported very few deaths and a few local infections from corona virus. On the other hand, this statistic has put the Asian country in a crossfire. Despite its long border with China and limited resources, it has effectively stopped the spread of Covid-19, which eventually has sparked a debate, few skeptical minds even said, there might be data fixing by the one-party state.
Still, it is hard to verify the government data, although the officials demand Vietnam has been able to stop the spread of this deadly virus mostly because of the drastic and fast action. The government was hyperactive during the pandemic, and it knew how much threat this pandemic posed to Vietnam’s health infrastructure. After recognizing that Vietnam’s medical system will crumble even by a mild spread of the virus, the country opted for early prevention and acted on a massive scale.
By early January, the Vietnamese government initiated a drastic action in order to prepare for this pneumonia, which had already killed two in neighboring China. Soon, the first case was confirmed on 23rd January, when a man from Wuhan, China visited Ho Chi Minh City in order to meet his son. However, Vietnam’s emergency plan was in action by then.
The U.S and Vietnam both reported their first cases in the same week of January. And this timing was very much important due to the virus’s ability to spread exponentially. The Vietnam government said that for every 300 infected people, they had to quarantine as much as 84,000 people.
Also, according to the researchers, the U.S. could have avoided its Covid-19 related deaths if it had begun a strict lockdown on 8th March instead of 15th March. In contrast, Vietnam saw this outbreak of Covid-19 as a severe threat and opted for treatment, contact tracing, and restriction on movement. During this time Vietnam took measures that other countries would have taken months, they started with travel restrictions, closed the border with China, and increased the number of health check-ups massively in borders and places which are vulnerable.
The schools in the country were already closed for the Lunar New Year and the government ordered the school’s doors till mid of May. Also, the Vietnamese government launched a vast and labor-intensive contact tracing program to keep the country free from Covid 19.
During this time, Vietnam also took fines and took strict measures in order to curb the spread of false news, which eventually helped to reduce panic related to Covid 19 to a large extent. Even though social media-driven false information was present in the country, social media eventually increased people’s awareness regarding the virus and what they should do.
By the mid of March, the Vietnamese government started to send anyone to quarantine centers for 14 days who’d had contact history with a confirmed case. They even sent everyone to quarantine centers who entered the country. The costs were covered by the government. Although the facilities were not very luxurious, they did their job. Everyone in quarantine was tested, even if they were sick or not, and it became clear that around 40% of total Covid-19 infected patients had no clue that they were infected.
Also, most of the Vietnamese population who returned to the country were much younger and healthier. So, this young population already had a better chance to fight the virus. Also, the government never allowed them to put elders at risk, as they were kept in quarantine centers once they kept their feet in the country. This measure ensured that the healthcare system is completely focused on a few of the critical Covid-19 cases.
Do you know what the best part is? Vietnam never had a full lock-down. Instead, the government looked at clusters. As an example; after a few cases in Son Loi, the entire area was sealed off and more than 10,000 people living in that area were not permitted to come outside, and none were permitted to go inside till two weeks had passed with no new confirmed cases.
However, with all these measures, the country reported a sudden surge in cases after no local transmissions for 99 days. Also, Da Nang, which is the new epicenter, reported its first death at the end of July, and since then the toll has risen to 10. This newly reported deaths and a surge in cases came as a devastating blow for Vietnam, which was till then proud of its zero fatality.
The researchers believe that the virus went undetected during its initial phases, where there were no reported cases, and from there it was transmitted in the community. Or there might have been an error in the testing or quarantine facilities. Also, there might be people who might have dropped their guard due to the non-detection of Covid-19 for weeks. With all the 80,000 tourists of Da Nang, many of whom thought the disease has been contained is now back at home. Now the state media has reported Covid 19 cases in 14 cities and provinces across the country. However, the good news is all the cases have a direct link with the Da Nang outbreak. Thankfully there’s no report of community transmission.