How Vietnam, a Socialist Country handled the Second wave of COVID-19?

Vietnam shows us how immediate governmental response and setting up of effective state mechanisms to contain and prevent spread is one of the ways in which the horrors of consecutive waves of the virus can be avoided.

PC: Asia Times

With India completely buckling down due to the mismanagement of the second wave of the virus, looking at how other countries handled consecutive waves of the virus would be helpful. One of those countries that handled it successfully is Vietnam.

Vietnam, a socialist country, took into account the real conditions of the country as opposed to simply prioritising the aim of reopening business and profitable industries.

Vietnam’s first COVID-19 case was identified on January 23rd, 2020. This marked a series of containment measures undertaken by the Vietnamese government such as border closures, banning of public gathering and events, restrictions on both domestic and international travel, quarantine and social distancing.

The same has been followed by most countries with COVID-19 outbreaks, however Vietnam seems to have come out much more successful in containing and preventing the spread of the virus.

Timeline and Measures taken

The Vietnamese government responded to COVID-19 almost immediately; in the first wave of the virus, the country went into lock-down just after 6 cases were identified. What followed was an intense tracing and testing process where tracing emerged as a key means to contain the virus. Not only were first and second levels of contact traced, but also third and fourth levels.

Vietnam: How a small nation is leading the way in the fight against the pandemic

Registration for rapid testing in Vietnam. Source: Jogh.org

In February prior to the lock-down being imposed, any travelers entering the country were quarantined for 14 days and tested for the virus. Entire villages were contained even if there was only one case. Streets were tested when positive cases appeared in a neighborhood. The country also set up testing booths in many areas, with testing kits developed at extremely low costs. These preventative measures were instrumental in Vietnam’s overall success in combating the virus. In the second wave, the government undertook similar measures where again prevention and containment were the key priorities.

Following the slowing down of the first wave, the number of cases were kept low and stable as a result (around 268). The Country even went for 99 days without having any community transmission. During this time, the country started to open back up again. Schools and universities started calling students; restaurants, shops and tourism spots were allowed to operate. Tourism especially in the coastal areas became quite busy with domestic travelers. Almost all the positive cases identified in the 99 day period were that of Vietnamese citizens who had returned to the country from outside. All of them had been immediately quarantined as soon as they reached Vietnam, and so, community transmission was easily avoided.

The country entered into a second wave of the virus three months after the first wave ended. In July, a new strain of COVID-19 was detected in a 57 year old patient at Da Nang C Hospital, in the coastal city of Da Nang. Just one day after the case was detected ,Da Nang and three other hospitals in a medical complex holding suspected cases were locked-down. Around 6000 people (including family, care-givers, health care workers and non-clinical staff) were suspected to be positive cases and were put in quarantine. In addition to this, 6665 people were contact-traced and put in quarantine.

Da Nang C Hospiral where first case of second COVID-19 outbreak was detected. Source: Linhcandng

The city is known to be a popular tourist spot as well as a transit city for foreign workers.The source of the first case infection was unknown, thus ending the 99 day streak without community transmission. Scientists have mentioned how the same strain of the virus has been found in countries such as Bangladesh, Britain and Ireland. It is speculated that illegal tourism could be one of the main reasons for the second wave of COVID-19 in the country. In the following month the number of cases rose to 962, with clusters of cases showing up in 15 other cities and districts. From The death toll went from 0 to 35. A strict lock-down was imposed in Da Nang, the strictest lock-down in the country yet. Transport to and from the city was shut down, and a majority of businesses were closed. In other affected regions, restaurants, night clubs and other recreational spaces were closed. Gatherings of more than 30 people were banned and masks were made mandatory. Like the first wave, detailed contact tracing and testing was carried forth, with positive patients and their contacts being immediately quarantined.

Mass Communication Measures 

State controlled media had also undertaken an information campaign regarding the virus and the precautions to be followed. This was effective in spreading  speedy awareness on social distancing norms and details about transmission. Text messages from the Ministry of Health with information on the virus as well as safety tips regarding the same was also common mode of circulating information.

Vietnam
A VIetnamese government poster citing preventive measures on spread of Coronavirus

The Government also took pains to look out for misinformation from the start of the outbreaks. While a 2018 cybersecurity law already deals with this to some extent in the country, the government passed a decree on misinformation relating to the virus on April 14th. The decree maintained that serious fines would be charged to  “anyone on social media sharing false, untruthful, distorted, or slanderous information.” Information and cultural workers were also employed to educate and provide updates to people, on the virus and the measures undertaken by the government.

Preventative Model 

The public healthcare system in the country is mostly strong in its preventive response and emergency operations centers. The approach it used was one where it aimed to stop the virus before it spreads; this can be seen in how, many were quarantined on the basis of contact as opposed to showing symptoms. Tracing took a top down approach in which a “community model” was employed whereby members of urban neighborhoods and rural hamlets were in charge of tracing in their areas. The country also very quickly made use of a number of factories to rapidly start producing items such as PPE, medical facilities, masks, etc. Free mask booths were also set up around the city. Currently Vietnam has kept their cases to 2800, and the death toll has remained at 35.

Quarantine area during COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam. Source: Nguyenhai314

In light of the horrific situation that stands in India where there is constant shortage of vaccines, hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, even testing, we should look to socialist countries such as Vietnam and Cuba. They show us how immediate governmental response and setting up of effective state mechanisms to contain and prevent spread is one of the ways in which the horrors of consecutive waves of the virus can be avoided.

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