The battle against the coronavirus pandemic is still very much prevalent. It still haunts every corner of the globe, and continues to give everyone fear and anxiety – not to mention the pain of being infected or having loved ones infected and killed by the disease.
Every day, news about rising infections and deaths dominate front pages and major newscasts. While letting ourselves believe that this would all be over soon has worked in the first few months of this global health crisis, we can longer pretend that the world is healing anytime now.
As of December 28, the infections already reached more than 80.7 million worldwide, and death toll is nearing two million. The ray of hope brought by the coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna was only short-lived as new coronavirus strains were discovered and have already infected several people.
But while the fight may not still be over, there are several countries that have excelled in their handling of the pandemic. Vietnam, for one, has been exceptional in how it immediately curbed the spread of the virus within its territory. The country’s fast and decisive decision to close all borders and halt entry of all foreign nationals made it somehow easy to detect infections and isolate them. Vietnam didn’t see any death for months, until the Danang outbreak.
But even then, the Southeast Asian country immediately contained the infections and life was back to normal – with face masks and social distancing protocols, of course.
How did Vietnam become one of the safest places in the world during this troubled and dangerous time?
Vietnam Tourism Board recently published “How Vietnam overcame a pandemic” and detailed how the country emerged victorious in its fight against the unseen enemy.
Even before COVID-19, Vietnam has already faced several health crises. And with it sharing a long border with China (where the coronavirus disease was first discovered), Vietnam was especially vulnerable. But the government made quick and decisive actions early on to prevent a full-blown outbreak. The Prime Minister immediately declared an epidemic, which paved to way to nationwide safety lockdowns, release of necessary funding and forming of a special committee to handle the health crisis.
Vietnam mainly relied on contact tracing, widespread testing and targeted lockdowns to prevent the coronavirus from getting transmitted in local communities. The strategy was based on the risk of infection, rather than symptoms (as many of those who were tested positive of the virus were asymptomatic). Vietnam closed borders to visitors, suspended large gatherings and required quarantines.
Preparedness and Supply
Vietnam doesn’t have the best healthcare resources, but the Ministry of Health stepped up and began preparing even before the coronavirus reached the country. Military barracks were transformed into quarantine camps and field hospitals, with thousands of beds made ready.
There were also 45 response teams set up nationwide, and 31 private hospitals organized their own task forces. Testing facilities and health hotlines were quickly established. According to Vietnam Tourism Board, Vietnam currently has 200 testing centers able to gather up to 46,000 samples per day.
From February, there was a constant stream of supplies available to the public. In fact, while people from other countries suffered from massive looting and shortages of essential items and prices of face masks skyrocketed, Vietnam’s supermarkets were fully stocked with food, alcohol, sanitizers and face masks. The government also shouldered medical expenses for anyone who caught the virus and quarantine stays were free for Vietnamese throughout most of the pandemic.
Vietnam closed its border with China as early as January 31 and the weeks after that, the country shut its borders entirely. Locals and expats returning from overseas were taken directly into quarantine and were not discharged until they get negative results from repeated tests.
Whenever cases surge, affected neighborhoods were quickly sealed off and everyone was placed in mandatory quarantines and strict movement limitations. During these periods, the government allotted daily groceries to the people within the confined area, ensuring their health and safety.
Because Vietnam acted fast, people in the country enjoyed long periods with no community transmission and thus, enjoying the normalcy of life not enjoyed by most parts of the world. Within Vietnam, tourism is alive and thriving as families and friends can freely travel and enjoy a good time.
Tracing and testing
Vietnam adopted third-degree contact tracing using both manual and hi-tech methods. Health authorities tested and quarantined the close contacts of each infected person, whether they were exhibiting symptoms or not. Anyone who tested positive was placed in medical care, while those who turned out negative were still kept isolated in their homes. A tracing app called Bluezone was immediately made public so people can easily trace infections and report potential risks.
Vietnam was also quick to develop its own coronavirus testing kit. The World Health Organization approved a Vietnamese-made RT-PCR test kit on February 25, and other made-in Vietnam rapid detection kits were ordered and exported around the world. Many people did not hesitate submitting themselves for testing, and everyone were cooperative to any restriction or policy imposed. In April, Reuters revealed that Vietnam holds the highest ratio of tests to confirmed cases in the world.
What really made Vietnam stand out is how it allowed its residents to have a hold of all necessary information about the coronavirus pandemic. News and health advice are made available as soon as they come. An official COVID-19 web portal updates information daily, and SMS texts were sent out regularly from the Ministry of Health.
To further spread awareness, Vietnam released an anti-coronavirus anthem – a catchy song titled Ghen Cô Vy. It garnered more than 68 million views on YouTube and people around the country were dancing to its tune. The song, which outlined the best practices to prevent getting sick from coronavirus, made a mark everyone’s head and so it was easy to encourage them to follow safety precautions.
Vietnam has always been known for its strong family and community spirit. Traditions here are centered on family ties and deep connection with the community. And this kind of unique Vietnamese trait made the battle against coronavirus easier to win. Everyone showed eagerness to help authorities prevent the spread of the virus, and people donated their resources for relief efforts. Many people lost their jobs, but many were also quick to extend help and care.
Beyond its border, the country also donated nearly half a million US dollars’ worth of masks to nations with mask shortages. According to VTB, Vietnam gave 500,000 face masks to five European nations and hundreds of thousands’ worth of medical equipment to neighboring Laos and Cambodia. It was this united and collective effort that made Vietnam a real success story in this time of pandemic.