Dec 29, 2020 / 14:50

Learning from Vietnam on how to handle Covid-19

Vietnam’s achievement is attributed to a better health system and more effective government mechanism.

Vietnam’s latest success story is in the health sector that is revealed on how the country manage a pandemic effectively, according to the Jakarta Post.

 Vietnam's health system really helps in the fight against Covid-19. Photo: Kinhtedothi

It is one of the few countries in the world that has had huge success in its fight against the novel coronavirus, senior journalist Veeramalla Anjaiah said in an article on the Post “Learning from Vietnam on how to handle Covid-19”

With 97.75 million people and a long border with China, Vietnam has just 1,438 Covid-19 cases and 35 deaths as of December 25, compared to Indonesia with 700,097 cases and 20,847 deaths as of December 25, the highest in Southeast Asia and the third highest in Asia after India and Iran.

The author attributed the achievement to a better health system and more effective government mechanism at a time when most developed countries are struggling to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

He cited Vietnamese Ambassador to Indonesia Pham Vinh Quang that “There are many factors for Vietnam’s success. The first one is the early response to the pandemic.”

Vietnam correctly predicted the impacts of the pandemic and took drastic action in early January, even before the virus had appeared in the country, Mr. Quang said at a year-end virtual press briefing on December 22 in Jakarta. Vietnam reported its first Covid-19 case on January 23 and by that time, the government’s emergency plan was already in force.

Meanwhile, Guy Thwaites of Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City said this was the correct decision. “It very, very quickly acted in ways which seemed to be quite extreme at the time, but were subsequently shown to be rather sensible,” he said as quoted in an article “How 'overreaction' made Vietnam a virus success” published in the BBC on May 15.

 5K (in Vietnamese) message: "Khau trang" (face mask) - "Khu khuan" (disinfection) - "Khoang cach" (distance) - "Khong tu tap" (no gathering) - "Khai bao y te" (health declaration). Source: Vietnam’s Ministry of Health

The Post cited Ambassador Quang said that Vietnam had been taking several measures to contain the epidemic since January.

“We implemented containment policies in the affected areas. We have also closed our borders and put travel restriction on people. Strict quarantine measures were taken. We did not close down entire country, but only affected areas were put under lockdown. Wearing of masks has become mandatory,” he said.

“Our policies on Covid-19 are also transparent, cost-effective, intrusive and labor intensive oriented.”

Vietnam was lauded for its swift decision-making, effective public health messaging and aggressive contact tracing from day one.

“I think Vietnamese people are obedient to government rules. They listen to [their] government. As a result, Covid-19 was effectively contained there,” Sudharmono, a private employee in West Jakarta, told the Post on Wednesday.

Communication has been critical to Vietnam’s Covid-19 response.

“Our government has sent all the information about Covid-19 and precautionary measures regularly to all phones in Vietnam. This information can easily reach people at the grassroots. People have full trust in the government,” a Vietnamese diplomat told the Post on the condition of anonymity.

Cooperation with Indonesia on Covid-19 response

Mr. Quang said that Vietnam and Indonesia had agreed to work together to prevent and stop the spread of the disease “Within the bilateral framework, the two countries have taken steps to support each other and share experiences in coping with the epidemic in the spirit of solidarity and friendship.”

Vietnam has also cooperated closely with Indonesia in the multilateral ASEAN framework.

“Vietnam in the role of ASEAN Chairman 2020 has actively coordinated with Indonesia to organize the ASEAN Special Summit between ASEAN and East Asian partner countries, special ministerial-level meetings and other related meetings to discuss Covid-19 response measures,” he said.

“At the United Nations Security Council, the two countries also jointly promoted the adoption of relevant resolutions on pandemic cooperation,” the ambassador added.

Now all countries are looking to Covid-19 vaccines to stop the pandemic. Indonesia, as the de facto leader of ASEAN, and Vietnam, the outgoing ASEAN chair, must work together to design a plan to coordinate vaccine distribution so that nobody is left out, the Post noted.