Vietnam being a densely populated neighbour that shares a border with China, the country's efforts in keeping Coronavirus at bay has surprised the world. At the time of this publication, the relatively small southeast Asian nation posted a total of 312 cases and 0 deaths so far, according to Johns Hopkins figures. If that isn't impressive enough, the story of how they managed to keep the infection rate so low will be an entirely inspiring story.
As countries locked horns against the coronavirus pandemic that has affected much of Europe, the Americas and rest of Asia, Vietnam quietly took measures to contain the virus in January even before cases were discovered outside China.
During the Tet New Year, considered to be the country's traditional New Years festival, Vietnam's Premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc, leader of the ruling Communist party, tentatively 'declared war' on the virus. He was quoted in an international new daily, where he said 'Fighting this epidemic, mans fighting the enemy.'
That set the momentum going, despite numerous challenges such as insufficient funds, public health resources. Vietnam did two things right, healthcare experts agree:
1) Rigorous quarantine policies
2) Meticulously curated and maintained contact tracing data
Institutionalised lockdown: rigorous mandatory quarantine, much earlier in the course of the epidemic than in China or other hotspots where lockdowns were used as "last resorts" to keep the virus from spreading further.
Contact tracing: Local newspapers in Vietnam reported that entire towns of over 1 lakh population will be put under lockdown for three weeks if more than 10 cases were confirmed in the area. Authorities then used the lockdown to carefully document anyone who may have potentially come in contact with the infected person.
Several countries documented details of the infected person and those they might have come in direct contact with, in Vietnam, however, authorities ensured third and fourth levels of contact to the infected person will also be monitored and successively placed under quarantine. As a matter of strict national security, authorities also ensured anyone travelling to Vietnam underwent mandatory self-isolation of 14 days, even if they tested negative in the screening process. All of this was accomplished back in January when other countries were still preparing for the outbreak.
Vietnam's Military was brought into action early in the fight, they were seen patrolling every street, neighbourhood and village. This tight-knit surveillance kept people from slipping through the net or evading regulations. The Vietnamese Premier in his frequent appearances on TV while addressing the nation, said, 'Every business, every citizen, every residential area must be a fortress to prevent the epidemic.'
The state-controlled media also launched into a massive overhaul in its programs and used much of its resources on information campaigns. The Health Minister reportedly also wrote a song about washing hands and maintaining personal hygiene, which has since gone viral in the country.
Propaganda poster from Vietnam 🇻🇳& it says:— Trinh Nguyen (@Trinhnomics) March 25, 2020
Staying at home is loving your country 🤗!
From songs to posters, Vietnam is trying to get its citizens to help contain the coronavirus. Maybe the US can get celebs & basketball players ⛹️♂️ to say:
Staying at home is da bomb 👍🏻😎 pic.twitter.com/WZf5BC5gkC
Although this may be early signs of celebration, what Vietnam has achieved is no easy feat. The country's citizens appear to take pride in their results. While aware of the projected economic costs, which will hit Vietnam, in the following months, the citizens have come to accept the results for 'greater good'.
To ease the financial burden, the Vietnamese government has made USD 1.1billion available to pump liquidity into the economy. However, experts agree that the revenues will eventually dry up because of the crisis. And because there is greater trust in the government, the fight against coronavirus seems more possible to win.