Coronavirus: The secret’s behind Vietnam’s containment success?

Vietnam – a developing country that has a large land border with China, relatively low income and a population of 97 million people – has not reported a single death from coronavirus and only 271 cases. 

While the mortality numbers climb into the hundreds of thousands across the world, Vietnam has managed to contain the outbreak of coronavirus through timeliness, aggressive infection control, mass mobilisation of its population and an unprecedented level of openness. 

Vietnam’s robust response and its strong public health system have enabled its success in combating the Covid-19 pandemic, health experts said.

Foreign tourists wear protective masks while traveling on three-wheel cycle along old quarters streets in Hanoi, Vietnam March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

“There are so many different factors that go into it,” Barbara Marston, the Covid-19 International Task Force Lead at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said at a telephonic conference.

“It could be partly ecological, but they are certainly related to the quality of responses, and I think Vietnam has had a very strong response.” She was responding to a reporter asking about the low numbers of infection cases in Vietnam.

According to the international press, the reason why Vietnam has managed to keep patients from death’s door is down to a three-pronged government strategy. While these policy choices may not all be consistent with upholding civil liberties, they are proving essential to keeping the pandemic at bay.

Temperature screening and testing

Vietnam began testing early, ramping up domestic production of tests after the first cases of the coronavirus in the country were discovered in three travelers returning from Wuhan in January. It then undertook extensive contact tracing, with strict quarantine at government-run facilities for those suspected of having the virus.

Starting in February, anyone arriving at an airport in a major Vietnamese city had to go through compulsory body temperature screening and fill in a health self-declaration, stating their contact details and travel and health history. These measures are now mandatory for everyone entering major cities and some provinces by land too, and for everyone entering a government building or hospital.

By March 5, Vietnamese scientists have been able to design a test kit for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that is on a par with those produced by the World Health Organization (WHO). Particularly, the Vietnam-made kit is capable of returning results within 80 minutes, with a specificity of 100 percent and sensitivity of five copies per reaction, according to the Military Preventive Medicine Institute.

Due to limited treatment infrastructures, the Vietnamese government has focused on mass testing and aggressive contact tracing – a tactic it had employed to fight Sars 17 years ago. Only this time on a larger scale. As of 30 April, Vietnam had conducted 261,004 tests and put tens of thousands of people in isolation.

Targeted lockdowns

The country is beginning to lift the strict lockdown measures it began imposing in February, reopening restaurants and barber shops last week.

To take the fight to coronavirus, Vietnam instituted rigorous quarantine policies, and carried out complete tracing of all people who came in contact with the virus. These measures were implemented much earlier in the course of the epidemic than in China, where lockdowns of entire cities were used as a last resort to keep the virus from spreading further.

In March, Vietnam started to lock down whole cities and specific areas in a city. Travelling between cities is now highly restricted. 

Businesses, both state and private, are closed down, and the tourism and airline industries are essentially frozen.

Constant communications

From early January, the Vietnamese government has communicated widely to citizens about the seriousness of the coronavirus.

Vietnam is also applying a kind of war rhetoric in its fight against coronavirus. The premier has said: “Every business, every citizen, every residential area must be a fortress to prevent the epidemic.”

This has hit a nerve with many Vietnamese, who are proud of their ability to stand together in a crisis and endure hardships.

State-controlled media have also launched a massive information campaign. The Health Ministry even sponsored a song on YouTube about proper hand-washing that has gone viral.

The three prongs of Vietnam’s strategy may not be wholly consistent with liberal ideals, but they are working. The healthcare system has the time to treat each patient, and in so doing, keep the number of COVID-19 deaths at zero. Vietnam offers important lessons as COVID-19 is set to spread further across developing countries.

On March 22, private conglomerate FPT Corporation and FPT people pledged 2,000 isolated places in the dormitory of FPT Education in Hoa Lac High Tech Park and VND 20 billion to purchase essential medical equipment such as ventilators, sterilization chambers and other medical protective equipment in response to the Prime Minister’s call for the country to fight against COVID-19. 

Because the community has been a good tradition of FPT for many years and FPT always strives to contribute with its technological strengths as well as many meaningful social responsibility activities, which come from the sincere sharings and sincere hearts of each and every FPT individual.