On March 18th 2020, a 43-year-old British pilot in Vietnam, Stephen Cameron, was diagnosed with Covid-19 and admitted to a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City of Vietnam. As the most critically ill patient in the country, Cameron became a rallying point for the Vietnamese. When news broke that his lungs were failing, more than 50 Vietnamese volunteered to donate their lungs, while health experts nation-wide were roped in as the country mounted an all-out effort to save the country. Coronavirus in Vietnam is an example for the rest of the world.
The govt spent more than $200,000 on the Vietnam Airlines pilot and he eventually defied the odds, avoiding a coronavirus death and making a near-full recovery. He is just one of the many patients to survive Covid-19 in the country which has zero fatalities and a few hundred confirmed cases in the first six months of the outbreak- an impressive feat by all accounts. Coronavirus in Vietnam seems to have very optimistic result in the perspective of public healthcare management.
So, how did Vietnam keep a clean sheet?
When news of a pneumonia-like virus from across the border in China reached Vietnam, the government immediately took the potential spread seriously, anticipating that the country could have thousands of cases and framing the outbreak as a ‘war’. Coronavirus in Vietnam was managed well at the very outset.
Vietnam’s government carried out its response in phases. As early as January 10th, before the country had recorded its first case on January 23rd, Vietnam started screening passengers from Wuhan, China. Suspected cases were isolated while the government ordered its 97-million strong population to wear masks, going above and beyond the World Health Organization’s advice. The government communicated the citizens very early on about what was happening in China and that there was a high risk that the virus might come to Vietnam.
Having experienced the SARS a few years back, Vietnamese were aware of possible consequences of the virus. Consequently, they were all anxious, even before there were cases in the country. When Vietnam recorded its first case of Covid-19 on January 2020, the South-East Asian country was ready.
On February 1st, it was one of the first countries to halt all flights from China, and closed its 870-mile land border with its northern neighbor on the same day. The next phase of the government strategy centered on increasing testing capacity, communication to public and stepping up its quarantine efforts.
Between January and May, the country increased its testing sites from 2 to 63 – enabling to conduct more than 260,000 tests. Moreover, those who tested positive and their immediate contact were quarantined in military run campus, field hospitals and university residences.
Mass quarantine in military camps is one of the elements that makes Vietnam a success because it was easier to control people when they were put in one area. Because of the form of society and the government in Vietnam, it was able to do that.
Perhaps, the most unorthodox strategy employed by the government was a remake of a Vietnam song – ‘Jealous’ which was created to encourage hand-washing, general hygiene and limit people from going to crowded places. And the song went viral! It was a good way to reach out to people and make them sensitive about the topic. (Video Link)
Despite testing aggressively and a communication and quarantine strategy at the start, the country still recorded a jump in the number of new cases. After recording only 16 cases in the first month of the outbreak, the second wave in Vietnam occurred in March 6th with another 254 cases by May 1st.
As the numbers surged, the government declared that the country was in an epidemic and implemented a nationwide lockdown. Until May 1st, around 200,000 people were quarantined.
On January 20th, the Ministry of Health in Vietnam also designated 22 hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients. This ensued that other hospitals were not overwhelmed. Of its first 328 cases, 90% had recovered. But some experts have questioned the reliability of the data specially since the country is a one-party state and has a tight control over media.
In any case, the country appears to be on a path to recovery, much faster than its neighbors. It was among the first countries to ease social distancing measures and to reopen its economy. In fact, the government allowed the first chartered flight from Japan at the end of June after suspending travel In March.
Between April and June, its economy grew unexpectedly by 0.36% while the government has a target of 5% growth for the rest of the year.
For many, life even appears to be back to normal. Yet, the reopening is not a return to their older lives, rather a new normal with new lessons.
The writer is a bright sophomore in Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka.
You can reach him: [email protected]
- Thu, B. B. O. (2020, June 27). Vietnam’s British patient: “I’d be dead in any other country.” BBC News. BBC WORLD
- Jones, A. (2020, May 15). How “overreaction” made Vietnam a virus success. BBC News. BBC WORLD
- How has Vietnam managed to control COVID-19? (2020, May 29). World Economic Forum. WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM