Vietnam’s proactive approach to battling COVID-19; A staggering achievement

Emphasizing the importance of social solidarity, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has described Vietnam’s efforts to contain the virus as the “spring general offensive of 2020”, referring to the crucial 1968 Tet Offensive by the liberation forces during its last war.

Vietnamese family of recovered COVID-19 patient presents flowers to a doctor in the  northern province of Vinh Phuc, Feb. 26, 2020. At the time the patient was the last being treated.

(April 27) – Vietnam, just south of coastal China, is the 15th most populous country in the world with 97 million people. At the time of writing, Vietnam has registered no new cases of the coronavirus  in the past ten days. In all, according to its Ministry of Health (MoH), only 268 coronavirus infections and no deaths have been recorded. In contrast to Canada, a country with developed resources and 48,800 cases and 2,852 deaths, this is a staggering achievement.

From the get-go, the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has taken all measures to combat COVID-19, including a massive public education and rules enforcement campaign.

When only 27 Covid-19 caseshad 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.

When China officially confirmed the first death due to the novel coronavirus on January 11, Vietnam quickly tightened health checks at all borders and airports. Visitors’ body temperatures are checked on arrival; anyone with symptoms, such as cough, fever, chest pain or breathing difficulties, is quickly isolated for testing, and strictly monitored at medical facilities, while recent contacts are traced for follow up action.From the first days of February, Vietnam suspended all its flights to and from China, and almost closed its long 1,300 km long land border with the People’s Republic.

Schools have not reopened since the end of January, after the Tet commemorations, the Vietnamese New Year.

As soon as the virus appeared in Vietnam, the government struck a National Steering Committee for COVID-19 with the participation of ministers and officials across ministries, led by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, who is determined that Vietnam will keep its number of cases to less than 1,000. Deputy Prime Minister Vu noted that with the people mobilized under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and the government and its ministries, the Vietnamese people will defeat the virus. Ministries are responsible for implementing any decision taken by the National Steering Committee. In addition, Vietnam works closely with the World Health Organization, which has provided lab testing resources to the country. This serious, mature and appropriate approach stands in contrasts with the standard disinformation about the so-called “totalitarian” nature of a socialist government and the role the Communist Party plays in the real world.

Other measures followed, including closing schools, rationing surgical masks, cancelling some flights, and restricting entry to most foreigners. They have been imposed as needed, rather than as blanket, across-the-board measures. 

Vietnam contained the first wave of infections in January. As of March 28, Vietnam reported 174 cases and no deaths. Following a second wave of 41 new cases, Vietnam imposed a national isolation order on 31 March.

The country has already conducted more than 121,000 tests, with more than 75,000 people in quarantine or isolation. Medical students as well as retired doctors and nurses have been mobilized. 

Vietnam developed a fast, efficient and affordable test kit within a month. Many countries have already shown interest in the kit which uses a WHO-approved technique. Rapid development of the kit followed extensive urgent consultations with a wide range of scientists coordinated by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Social mobilization, solidarity and unity

VietNam without deceased

According to Tran DacPhu, a senior adviser to Vietnam’s Emergency Operation Centre, “We have to mobilise all of society to the best of our capability to fight the outbreak together, and it’s important to find the cases early and isolate them”.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute noted “Vietnam’s experience demonstrates how, by focusing on early risk assessment, effective communication and government-citizen cooperation, an under-resourced country with a precarious healthcare system can manage the pandemic. In facing an indefinite unknown, decisive leadership, accurate information and community solidarity empower people to protect themselves—and each other.”

In a recent interview, Professor Le Vu Anh, a public health leader and founding Dean of the Hanoi School of Public Health, pointed out that citizens’ health care is a top priority of the government. He explained that health care is organized through four levels of administration – central, provincial, district and commune – and at each level there is adequate staffing and infrastructure to support the health of the people. These levels of organization make it possible to undertake a successful public education campaign to inform the citizens of the danger posed by COVID-19 and involve them in the fight against the virus, he noted.

Professor Le also pointed out that there is public health insurance, and although there are public as well as private health facilities, all are required to be licensed by the state and are regularly monitored to ensure that a thorough job is being done to secure the people’s health and well-being.

Reports reveal the level of intervention and support Vietnam gives its citizens when it comes to fighting COVID-19.

The government has asked all citizens to make online health declarations, and regularly texts updates nationwide.

For example, if a person is sick in a building, the whole building is locked down and the government provides three hot meals a day to everyone in the building at minimal cost until the person recovers.

If a person enters the country from abroad, government health officials immediately put them in quarantine for a 14-day period at state expense.

Concerned about stigmatization, Vietnam refers to infected persons by their case numbers. When local businesses were reportedly ostracizing foreigners, the prime minister spoke out against such discrimination.

Hotels are being opened and rooms made available at subsidized rates for those who wish to move there to self-isolate. This also helps to keep the tourism industry active during the pandemic.

Two communes were put under lockdown on 9 March after a British tourist with the virus visited them. Agricultural villages with more than 10,000 inhabitants were completely blocked for three weeks, when there were only a dozen confirmed cases of infected in the entire territory.

VietNam without deceased

Later, “more than 80,000 people were simultaneously quarantined” across the country, in army-held camps, said Takeshi Kasai, WHO director for the western Pacific region. “It is the reason why they have been able to keep a small number” of infected.

These and other measures have proven to be effective means of fighting COVID-19 and Vietnam is showing that the full intervention of the state and the mobilization and active participation of the entire people are the key to successfully containing the virus. 

A fund-raising campaign to buy medical and protective equipment for doctors, nurses, police and soldiers in close contact with patients, and for those quarantined, was launched on March 19. By April 5, more than 2.1 million appeals had been texted, with a considerable sum raised.

While some rich countries act selfishly, Vietnam like Cuba and China is demonstrating international humanitarian solidarity in the face of the Covid-19 threat to humanity.

It has shipped 450,000 protective suits to the US for healthcare professionals, and donated 550,000 masks to five European countries. Vietnam has also donated protective clothing, medical masks, testing equipment and kits – worth over US$300,000 – to Cambodia and Laos, and testing kits to Indonesia.

Emphasizing the importance of social solidarity, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has described Vietnam’s efforts to contain the virus as the “spring general offensive of 2020”, referring to the crucial 1968 Tet Offensive by ‘the liberation forces during its last war.

(Source: TML Weekly, Nanh Dan, Orinoco Tribune, IPS. Photos: VNA, Infobae)

Further reading about Vietnam

Webinar to celebrate 45th anniversary of the reunification of Vietnam


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