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

As the world stands, socialist countries have been performing better than many superpowers in containing and eradicating the virus.

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

Vietnam is the 15th most populous country in the world. This socialist country has had only 268 cases of coronavirus that have been reported so far along with 0 deaths.

Vietnam shares its borders with China and has managed to contain the virus better than most first world countries. This was possible because the government took pro-people steps first to ensure the virus was contained. When there were only 6 cases in the country, Vietnam declared a national emergency in the country and implemented social distancing, forced quarantine, and aggressive testing. The narrative that capitalist nations are progressive, are better equipped to deal with emergencies, and have better healthcare has been shaken. As the world stands, socialist countries have been performing better than many superpowers in containing and eradicating the virus from their nations.

A Vietnamese government propaganda poster
Le Duc Hiep’s propaganda poster, which includes the message: ‘To stay at home is to love your country’ to help Vietnam fight coronavirus via The Guardian

The Vietnam Model

At the end of January, when the rest of the world was doing business as usual, the Vietnamese government got proactive. This was during the time when the virus was still contained to China. Premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that it was only a matter of time before it reached Vietnam.

Starting February, the country ensured that they temperature screen everyone at the airport and that they filled out health-self-declaration forms which asked them about their contact details and their travel history. These measures are now mandatory for those entering government buildings, hospitals, or moving across state borders. Those who lie on the self-declaration forms can be criminally charged. The government also ensured that everyone who was entering the country was self-quarantined for 14 days and were tested for COVID-19. They had very strict lockdown measures, with villages of 10,000 people being confined because of one case.  While countries like Germany only tracked patients and their direct contacts, Vietnam tracked the second, third, and fourth levels of contacts.

Public notices in Hanoi explain social distancing measures. Luong Thai Linh/EPA via The Conversation

Testing across the country has been intensive. Communities who live near those who are confirmed cases are tested, sometimes testing the entire street. Testing booths have been set up across the country where people can come and get tested. The testing kits in Vietnam have been developed fast and at low costs. The test kits were all under 25$ and were fully state-funded. The State was responsible for the coordination and ensuring these kits were made available at low costs. The country does not have a strong public health-care system, with only eight doctors to every 10,000 people.

While the country did not focus on mass-testing it did ensure that the virus was contained through the mobilization of the army and running compulsory state-operated quarantine centers and having mass surveillance.

The Vietnamese government ensured that from Day 1 it maintained full transparency with its citizens and provided unrestricted access of information to them. The government has efficiently used social media and SMS to keep the people informed about the measures that were being taken.

Also read: Vietnam- Rice ATMs are feeding the poor during the lockdown

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.

To minimize workers and their families being affected by the lockdown, the government approved a 111.55 million dollar financial support package that includes covering all costs for workers in quarantine or who are recovering from the disease.

The West Stands Exposed

For the West, who boasts of state-of-the-art health-care systems, human rights of citizens, and booming economies, they have clearly missed the boat on this world-wide emergency. The US now has the highest number of cases in the world and the Trump administration is still focused on opening the economy in this volatile condition. The Governments in other non-communist countries have also failed to control the virus. Unlike the US, Vietnam went into lockdown when they had their 6th case and were ready to fight the virus even before it entered the country. From the era of the Vietnamese Resistance War to SARS, and now the Coronavirus, Vietnam has a history of success in fighting against deadly diseases.

It is necessary that we as nations start recognizing the power of publicly owned health-care systems that put the health of its citizens before corporate greed. In a world where capitalism has been ignorant over the loss of lives and has been focused on generating profits through a pandemic, it is essential that we look to socialist countries like Vietnam and Cuba who have put no price on the value of the life of its people.

 

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