Dr. Lê Văn Toan, Associate Professor
March 29, 2020


Image Courtesy: Al Jazeera

Even as I am writing these lines, the Covid-19 pandemic (SARS-COV-2), which originated from Wuhan, Hubei, China in December 2019, has spread to 192 countries and territories. The Covid-19 pandemic is so dangerous that on the evening of March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global pandemic, and a week later, the President of WHO, Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, held a press conference declaring the Covid-19 anti-human enemy. As of the afternoon of March 27, there were 5, 32,263 affected people, and the death toll had crossed 24,000 globally. The pandemic has risen to be the most serious in the United States with 85,594 cases and 1300 deaths; China with 81,340 cases, 3.292 deaths; Italy with 80.589 cases, 8,215 deaths; Spain with 57,786 cases, 4,365 deaths; Iran with 29.406 cases, 2234 deaths, and many other countries. According to Worldometer, the number of affected cases and deaths would change unpredictably for the worse. We are witnessing the national lockdown globally. Human beings are on the thresholds of a mandatory decrease in consumption with less material and mental demands. However, it is just the visible tip of the iceberg. The invisible component of the iceberg under the water is the unintended consequences. Besides the loss in human lives, which is tangible losses, there are intangible losses, including not only the economic losses but also the losses in politics, materials, and also mental and physical trust of each other. Despite the above-mentioned consequences, the Covid-19 pandemic evokes a new logic of thinking and doing. 

Vietnam and Covid-19 pandemic 

The Covid-19 pandemic, in the beginning, has three phases. Phase 1 is China, the US, and Italy, phase 2 Europe and Iran, and phase 3 is the rest of the world. The Covid-19 in Vietnam consists of two phases. In Phase 1, the Covid-19 was transmitted from China to Vietnam between January 23, with two Chinese, father, and son confirmed positive in Ho Chi Minh City, and February 25, when the 16th case (the last case of the first phase) was cured. All the cases in the first phase were from China and the close contacts of those from China. The second phase of transmission took place between March 6 and the end of March. The media reported that as of 4 pm on March 23, Vietnam had 121 cases, 17 people were cured and discharged from hospital, with zero death. All cases in the second phase are from the pandemic areas in the world, mostly from Europe. Some cases of community transmission were also registered from close contact with the imported cases. 

Strategy and measure of prevention and treatment in Vietnam

The timing of this epidemic spread and transmission to Vietnam and other eastern countries coincides with Vietnam’s lunar new year celebrations. When Vietnamese people were happily celebrating the new year and spring festivals, the national leaders did not take rest because of the strange developments in the northern neighborhood country. A series of guidance documents of the Party and Government was issued. Many scenarios and measures were executed to remind the people of the danger of the outbreak, as well as to raise the awareness, and consensus between Party management board, and Government from the Central to local levels. The Party and Government established the National Command Board amid Covid-19 chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam. The National Command Board ordered local government to establish Local Command Board, chaired by the Chairperson of Provincial and City People’s Committees. The army and military also established a vertical command board. With the principles “Fighting the disease like fighting the enemy” and “transparency, openness, no concealment in the outbreak”, the whole political system of Vietnam joined the fight, giving the top priority to ensure the health and life of people, with the aim that no one is left behind, and to ensure the stability, and prevent social anxiety and dis-order. The National Command Board issued the principle of being pro-active, confident, smart, consistent, and to closely follow the development of the pandemic to change flexibly and quickly with the spirit of Four on premises: leadership on premises, the forces on premises, the equipment on premises, and the logistics on premises. Notably, more than ever, Vietnam has highlighted the information, propaganda, mobilization, persuasion, and guidance to the people in high frequency, through many diverse and straightforward methods which are easy to understand, and absorb (reminding messages and guidance, poems, songs, paintings, dramas). All mass media means of communication (radio, TV programs, social media, internet, national e-information portal, loudspeakers of districts, and communes in public spaces are being used to disseminate information. Besides, the Government has strict prevention methods such as quarantine, the lockdown of the affected areas and schools, canceling large events, organizing online working. Furthermore, to ensure the lives of people, the government has come up with solutions to serve the demand for food, medical supplies, as well as control prices from rising.

With the excellent strategies and the engagement of the people, the political system used best practice of the principles such as prevention, identification, isolation, disease extinguishment, in which the early identification and prevention were very important. Hence, the first phase of the campaign against Covid-19 of Vietnam (from January 23 to February 25) gained a comprehensive victory. All 16 affected cases were cured and discharged. 

In the second phase, with proactiveness and taking the full advantages of the lessons learned from the first phase, Vietnam has been executing the measures well to fight against the pandemic. In the victory, besides the decisive factors which are the Leadership of the Party, Government, the direct guidance of the National Command Board, the participation of the whole political system, and the consensus of the people, first and foremost, we should mention the important achievements of the health sector of Vietnam. Although the world and Vietnam have not found the specific medicine, Vietnam designed a treatment for Covid-19 right from the early days when the disease first came to Vietnam. When the treatment was finalized, the health sector organized training and strict implementation in hospitals from the Central to local levels nationwide. The treatment of Covid-19 in Vietnam has been continuously updated and added based on lessons learned from the medical practice and experience of the world. From this perspective, Vietnam has remained ahead of WHO’s advice. In terms of medical specialization, in the first phase of the fight against the outbreak, on February 7, Vietnam announced success in growing and isolating the new coronavirus in the laboratory. This success is the prerequisite condition for the quick testing of the SARS-COV-2 affected and suspected cases, besides being the pre-condition for early research and development of the vaccine for the virus to help find the more effective prevention and treatment measures for this ailment. In the second phase of the fight, on March 3, Vietnam announced success in research and production of the real-time RT-PCR, one step to test SARS-COV-2.

In comparison to the similar kit of Korea and American CDC, each test takes only one Vietnamese kit (and takes 2 Korean kits, and 4 American CDC kits). The kit production capacity of Vietnam is enough to meet the domestic demand as well as some export needs. Up to now, over 20 countries have ordered the Vietnamese kit. On March 18, Vietnam successfully put in place mobile disinfection chambers with disinfection timespan is 20 to 30 seconds, helping to kill germs in the whole body of the people using the chamber, and can help to dis-infected 1000 people/day. These assemblies can be used in crowded places such as hospitals, schools, shopping malls, factories. On March 22, Vietnam announced success in the invention and operation of a robot serving meals in the isolated areas. Many other inventions in the fight against the pandemic have been researched and produced in Vietnam, such as anolyte sanitizer, automatic hand-washer, automatic untouched Thermo for early detection, and preventing the disease have been used for effectively fighting against Covid-19 pandemic.

From the macro perspective, Vietnam has implemented the strategies and measures that are needed according to the situational developments in Vietnam due to increasing imported cases from China, Europe, and America, the hubs of the pandemic. Although Vietnam envisaged the risk of the imported disease, the country cannot totally “close its doors” due to many reasons. From March 1, 2020, until now, hundreds of thousands have immigrated to Vietnam, many of them are from the affected areas. To respond to this situation, Vietnam has effectively executed the following solutions: 

– Activate the medicare system from the central to the local levels, organize the experienced lines of medicare nationwide, and give the best medical resources and equipment for the fight against the pandemic. 

– Use the communication system: newspapers, broadcasting, internet publications, and other means to disseminate information about the pandemic to propagandize, mobilize, and instruct the people in prevention and treatment; use a diversity of formats of communication which are easy to understand and remember, in the forms of songs, poems, paintings, posters in public spaces; push the use of ICT and database to identify and confirm suspected cases. 

– All people must wear masks when going out and for meetings; compulsory and voluntarily digital medical declaration; categorize the vulnerable groups who are old and having previous diseases; push the filtering, identification, isolation, treatment and disease extinguishing; mobilize all people to find the suspected and high-risked cases, to take them to the massive quarantine zones or self-isolation at home with the advice and health check from professional medical staffs after that. Well perform the principle: “proactively containment – early identification – timely isolation – zone quarantine – strict disease extinguishing – effectively cured”. 

– All military forces join the war, accept the difficulty and sacrifice for the peace and safety of the people and nation. The responsibilities of the military can be witnessed in establishing and managing quarantine zones in military bases nationwide, following the commands of the Party and Government to serve free-of-charge accommodation for people in the quarantine zones. (Up to now, the military has been serving 50, 000 Vietnamese people and foreigners who traveled from affected areas).

– Mobilize the whole nation to join the solidarity to fight against the pandemic, for the utmost objective of health and life protection, and minimize the fatality caused by the pandemic. 

– Command the national airlines to organize pick-up flights to carry Vietnamese people from the affected areas to home; then put them in quarantine zones, and provide them free treatment. During more than two months, there have been over 3,50,000 immigrations to Vietnam and now are staying in the quarantine zones for being watched, treated, and cured by the suitable methods. 

– Pro-actively keep learners, from pre-school children to university students, at home, organize the re-structure the curriculum, re-schedule learning and teaching, launching the module of “no distance class” or online class. 

– Temporarily close all tourism activities, bars, dances, entertainment and sports, and big meetings, regardless of classes, religions; terminate some economic benefits to protect the health and life of people. 

What has been happening in Vietnam during the last two months of prevention, fighting, and treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic?

– The solidarity of the Party, Government, military, and people has been visible in this resistant war against the Covid-19 pandemic.

– The force of tens of thousands of “angles in white blouses” – the doctors, nurses – in the white protection coats, who just communicate to their peers by eyes, gestures, and actions, forget their families and friends to perform their duties; the scientists willing to face up with the danger to grow and explore the bio-mechanism of the virus, formulate vaccine, produce the test kits and the disinfection chambers, and sanitizers – are critical in this fight. 

– Thousands of retired doctors and nurses and students of medical universities have voluntarily gone to the forefront. 

– Hundreds of thousands of oversea Vietnamese peoples have been taken home, quarantined, and treated free-of-charge. 

– Over 700 flight crews, who are working in the top three high risk working environments, have refused salaries for two to three months while still working. 

– Over 10.000 soldiers are willing to sleep in temporary camps in the forests, in the yards and doorsteps of the living apartments, leaving their military bases for being used as the massive quarantine zones. They stay up late till mornings to provide free meals for half of the millions of Vietnamese returning home from overseas and foreigners coming to Vietnam staying in massive quarantine zones. 

– Poems, proverbs, and songs for propaganda purposes and calling for solidarity and sympathy, which are frequently broadcasted in mass media, in which the song “Ghen Covi” in both Vietnamese and English language has become a pop-culture production, received by all walks of life and made a blast in international media. On March 3, an article on Stern titled “Vietnam makes an MV about handwashing, becomes a hit on the Internet” asserted Ghen covi were enjoyed all over the world. A French TV channel BFMTV on March 4, gave a spotlight to this song. MC Julien Mielca Rek said: “Consider the population of Vietnam and the geographic characteristics of Vietnam, this song is a ‘secret weapon’ for Vietnam to win in the war against Covid”. An Iranian reporter suggested translating the song into the Persian language to educate Iranians to cope up with the pandemic. 

– Many 4-star and 5-star hotels in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam have registered as quarantine zones, for example, Bao Minh Radiant Hotel with 122 rooms provided accommodation for 157 people from Korea, Russia, and America. The hotel owner decided to provide free rooms and three meals a day for 157 people. All hotel staff who should have been taken days off due to the pandemic but still stayed at the hotel to serve and contribute to the pandemic fighting. 

– Many people from all age ranges and business people have donated 300 billion Vietnamese Dong (12,63 million USD) for the Government to fight the pandemic. 

– Although Vietnam is not a very rich country, even in hardship, Vietnam supported China by donating 5,00,000 USD, medical equipment, and supplies to fight the disease. 

The sound policies of Vietnam has mobilized the whole Party, the military, and the people of Vietnam to consolidate as a unit to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The smooth cooperation and high determination of the political system have created the strength in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic. This war affirms the superiority of the political system of Vietnam, the excellent and confident leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the practical, proactive, and justifiable management of the Government of Vietnam. It could be asserted that the political system of Vietnam is the system of the people, for the people and by the people. All these together make a mighty Vietnam, that is praised by WHO and friends all over the world. 

*** The author is the Founding Director and Chairman of Research Committee at Centre for Indian Studies at Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Vietnam ***