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Government’s determination and people’s trust are key to Vietnam’s in fight against COVID-19

6 April 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in China’s Wuhan in mid-December last year, concerns about the seriousness of outbreak in Vietnam immediately emerged as the two countries share some 1,200km of borders. Vietnam’s first 16 cases of virus all had connections to Wuhan. But since then, with the Government’s drastic and proactive measures alongside the whole society’s consensus, Vietnam has surprised the world with notably low number of patients and not a single death. Viet Nam News reporter Hong Minh explains why.

HANOI – 6am on Sunday, April 5, 2020 marked a special milestone that many people throughout Vietnam has been waiting patiently for.

For the first time in a month, the Ministry of Health announced no new cases of coronavirus had been detected overnight.

Rewind 12 hours to the 6pm announcement the previous evening, the nation was told there was just one new COVID-19 infection. Sunday evening brought more good news, just one more case bringing the total number in the country to 241.

Considering Vietnam shares more than 1,200km border with China and two-way trade between the two countries is nothing short of gargantuan, while having wide relations with many other countries now COVID-19 hotspots, to have so few cases, 91 successfully treated and not a single death is truly amazing. The rest of the world must be looking on with envy.

The measures the Vietnamese Government has taken in the last three months coping with the pandemic have proved effective initially.

Schools have been shut since the Tet(Lunar New Year) holidays, the first lunar month of the year in mid-January, and the doors have remained firmly closed ever since. The same goes for universities, colleges and kindergartens.

Hand sanitisers appeared as if by magic at coffee shops, on board buses, in the lobbies of apartment blocks and at grocery stores. Even taxi drivers carried bottles in their cars ready to spray each new passenger as they climbed in.

Guards at shopping malls and offices were quickly equipped with thermometres, checking the temperature of every single person to pass through the doors.

Pop songs with catchy tunes were released to encourage children to wash their hands regularly. Before it was even classed as a pandemic, a cool dance was spreading like wildfire on social media.

Hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent to build a Formula One racetrack and Hanoi should have been hosting its first ever Grand Prix on April 5. That too was postponed.

Put quite simply, Vietnam acted, and acted fast.

Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam can be divided into two main stages of infection, with a 22-day break in between when no new cases were reported.

Phase One was relatively contained, with just 16 cases were recorded between January 23 and February 25, when patient 16 tested positive.

The second stage started on March 6 when the virus officially hit the capital city of Hanoi through passengers on board a Vietnam Airlines flight, the national carrier, bringing people from Europe.

Patient number 17, a young woman who had been studying in England, arrived back in her home country bringing with her COVID-19.

What followed, by Vietnamese standards, was a tidal wave of cases, however compared to what other countries were experiencing, it would better be described as a small ripple in the waters.

The majority of the new cases recorded in Phase Two were either visitors from other countries, or overseas Vietnamese coming home.

Sensing danger, the authorities acted quickly, ferrying all new arrivals from the airports straight into 14 days of quarantine.

New rules were set, and followed.

Anyone caught spreading fake news on social media were fined. Wearing facemasks, a common apparel anyway in Vietnam due to pollution problems, became mandatory. Anyone not covering up in public would again face fines.

A phone app was developed to allow the public to see exactly where positive cases had been staying in Hanoi, the country’s capital.

People were categorised into groups labeled F1, F2 and F3 depending on the levels of contact they may have had with a patient.

When a positive case was discovered living in a certain street, the street was closed and within hours the army’s chemical unit was deployed to spray disinfectant on the roads and buildings.

If the government had not have acted as swiftly as they did, those two months since the country’s first case could have been catastrophic.

And yes, those in power deserve the highest of praise, but none of this could have been achieved without an obliging and trusting public.
Maybe that is why Vietnam is winning the war on coronavirus while other countries are struggling.

When the government told people to stay at home, the majority replied, OK, fine, let’s stay at home.

When the government assured the people there was plenty of food and no need to panic buy, the public said, no problem, we won’t panic buy in that case.

And when 14 out of the first 16 cases were linked to one small village, no eyebrows raised when the government cordoned off the entire community, for three weeks, until those who had tested positive recovered.

But despite astounding achievements, this is not the time to be complacent. Vietnam, like the rest of the world, is far from out of the woods.

The country is currently under social distancing rules imposed by the Prime Minister on April 1. It was no April’s fool’s joke.

People must stay at home unless they need to shop for groceries or buy essential items such as medicine.

Public transport has been suspended, bars and restaurants closed as are all shops selling non-essential goods and the only motorbike taxis on the roads are delivering food instead of passengers.

Thousands of people still remain in quarantine centres the length and breadth of the country and more and more tests are being carried out each day.

There are still concerns. Two people who have tested positive are travellers who arrived in the country before quarantine at the airports was imposed, and both travelled extensively around the country before their conditions were detected.

There are people in hospital in bad shape, but they are on the mend. Latest reports from the Ministry of Health say their conditions are improving.

And there are also concerns about the future.

Vietnam is a country that relies heavily on tourism and exports, and when the pandemic eases it won’t necessarily mean visitors will come rushing back and normal trading will resume immediately. That will take time.

The sooner the world returns to normal the better, but that may well be a long way off.

In the meantime, the people in Vietnam are doing all they can to help the cause.

They are, after all, the bedrock this country is built on. There is no doubt the government has a real handle on the situation, and the number of infections and zero deaths to date are testament to that.

Yet none of this could have been achieved without the overwhelming trust and faith held by the people.

People like 65-year-old Nguyen Thi Hao who sells noodles in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District. Before COVID-19 came a calling, she would serve up to 100 customers a day from dawn until dusk. Now her small restaurant is closed and she has no idea when she will be able to reopen.
“I am totally fine with the situation, even if that means my income is stopped,” she said.

“I strictly follow all the instructions from the Ministry of Health I received by text messages and I see them as very useful. “It is better this way for me, my family and the whole community. I believe in the Government. Together we fight and together we will win.”

– Viet Nam News




February/March 2020








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