Vietnam News

Vietnam’s response to coronavirus crisis earns praise from WHO

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Despite sharing a border with China, Vietnam has, with a combination of early decisive action, extensive testing, vigorous quarantining and social unity, so far avoided the devastation seen in Europe and the United States.

With coronavirus infections in the mere hundreds, Vietnam’s response to the crisis has earned praise from the World Health Organisation.

Official statistics show there are currently more than 75,000 people in quarantine or isolation. The country has so far conducted more than 121,000 tests, from which only 260 cases were confirmed.

As yet, there have been no virus-related deaths, and infection rates remain significantly lower than in South Korea, Singapore and even Taiwan – nations that have all been widely praised in global media for their effective responses to the pandemic.

Kidong Park, the WHO’s representative to Vietnam, believes the country’s early response to the crisis was critical.

“Vietnam responded to this outbreak early and proactively. Its first risk assessment exercise was conducted in early January – soon after cases in China started being reported,” Park says.

Immediate Response

The country quickly established a National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control under the auspices of the deputy prime minister which “immediately” implemented a national response plan, Park adds.

Despite having a low number of confirmed cases, Vietnam entered nationwide lockdown on April 1, a far faster and more decisive response than that seen in Britain or Italy, where cases ran into the many thousands before public life was shut down.

Elsewhere, governments enforced lockdowns to cope with existing epidemics. Vietnam did so to prevent an avoidable national crisis.

Wartime Parallels

Much of Vietnam’s success can be ascribed to its social unity. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently described Vietnam’s efforts to contain the virus as the “spring general offensive of 2020” – a deliberate reference to the crucial 1968 Tet Offensive carried out by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

He isn’t the only one drawing wartime parallels. Nguyen Van Trang, an economist in Hanoi, said her parents hadn’t seen such levels of compliance, discipline and solidarity since the war.

Vietnamese schools have been closed since January, and mass quarantining began on March 16. Since then, tens of thousands of people entering the country from badly hit nations have been put into compulsory quarantine in vast military-style camps. By March 25, international flights ceased altogether.

There is no easing of these restrictions yet in sight. The vast majority of domestic flights, trains and buses have been halted, and anyone leaving Hanoi – the epicentre of Vietnam’s outbreak – is quarantined upon arrival in almost any other province.

Australian Associated Press – April 13, 2020

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