Vietnam, and where other countries fell short.

The number of coronavirus infections cracked past the seven-million mark globally and not even the best-performing economies were spared from such a pandemic. Since it emerged in the province of Hubei, China last year, the virus was quick to spread around the world and claim the lives of millions.


The largest countries hit hardest by the virus were namely the United States, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, proof that not even the richest countries could be exempted from such wrath. Cases in the origin country, meanwhile, seem to have finally peaked.


In Asia, all eyes turned to Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan when the government sought for models to combat the transmission, yet there was one emerging country quietly boasting its way of keeping the outbreak at bay at a low-cost solution. And so, we ask, how did a poor country confront an unseen global enemy that brought so many economies to their tipping point?


As of June 5, 2020, Vietnam stood out with its “how to do more with less” when it reported that the total number of positive cases was only at 328 out of its total population of 97 million. Of the total infections, 302 have recovered and been discharged from the hospital while the death toll remained at “zero.”


This can be compared with the richest country in the Southeast Asian region, Singapore, which virus cases cracked past 39,000, followed by Indonesia with 31,186; the Philippines with 21,895; Malaysia with 8,322; and Thailand with 3,112.


Figures may seem too good to be true but such a low number of infections was a result of the government’s selective and proactive approach that started only when the country recorded its first two cases. Its secret? The government immediately guarded its walls before more infected persons came breezing through and were followed by moves such as contact-tracing, increasing the production of medical supplies, installing strict checkpoints at its airports and boundaries. It helped that the citizens were fed with transparency and were asked to unite to defeat the unseen enemy.


The figures were even more surprising given the country’s long-shared border with China and its much less-advanced healthcare system than its peers in the region. 


When Vietnam reported its first virus case, the Ministry of Health urgent issued assignments on outbreak prevention to relevant agencies and medical facilities nationwide. It only has eight doctors for every 10,000 people, according to data from the World Bank.


Vietnam recorded its first two cases on January 23 when two Chinese nationals from Wuhan traveled throughout the country before getting hospitalized. The government thereafter created a working group tasked to prevent the pandemic on January 30, the same day the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the situation a public health emergency of international concern.


When cases rose to six on February 1, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc penned a decision declaring the virus as a national epidemic. It halted all transportation from and to China and decided to keep schools shut after the lunar New Year break. On February 9, the Health Ministry held a teleconference with the WHO to disseminate information on virus prevention.


Two weeks later, Vietnam put the Vinh Phuc province on a 21-day lockdown, on sparked fears that migrant workers might return from Wuhan where the virus originated.


After imposing a three-week nationwide lockdown, Vietnam in late April eased its social distancing rules. Since then it hasn’t reported any local infection for over 40 days.


Businesses and schools have reopened, and life gradually returned to normal, and it is no wonder that the country won praise from the global community.


The take? While we can say that the coronavirus disease is far from over and may continue to claim millions of lives and cripple economies in the short to long run while we await a potential vaccine that would totally curb out the virus, we can be already certain that Vietnam’s proactiveness through its “how to do more with less” has already been embedded in the history for the future leaders to look back to should the world recapture the same scenario–something that other countries may have in their own ways, but was not quick to adopt.