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Canadian newspaper praised Vietnam's fight against Covid-19 as "standard"

08:50 | 29/05/2020

The Globe and Mail, one of the most trusted newspapers in Canada on May 27 published an article highlighting Vietnam's efforts in combating Covid-19. According to the article, Vietnam has set the standard for the fight against Covid-19 when no deaths have been recorded here.

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canadian newspaper praised vietnams fight against covid 19 as standard
Spectators, some wearing masks, cheer with small Vietnamese flags before the start of a Vietnamese National Football Cup qualifier match in Hung Yen province on May 25. Sporting events, like many public activities in Vietnam, are returning to normal after COVID-19 restrictions eased last month. (Photo: AFP)

The article was written by Eric Reguly, European Bureau Chief of The Globe and Mail. Eric praised Vietnamese government cracked down on the coronavirus early with quarantines, contact tracing and savvy social-media campaigns to educate the public. It’s been almost a month since the country’s lockdown lifted, and things are returning to normal.

According to the Globe and Mail, Vietnam’s virus-fighting record will stand out as a remarkable, perhaps unique, achievement. By Tuesday it had reported only 327 confirmed cases – about three per million in a population of 97 million. The comparative figure in Italy is 3,822 per million, while in Canada it is 2,320 and in the United States 5,247, according to official national data.​

canadian newspaper praised vietnams fight against covid 19 as standard
(Data: European CDC)

Eric Reguly also claimed Vietnam's success as "no accident". 

Its 1,450-kilometre border with China and frequent visitors from Wuhan, the site of the original outbreak in December and January, meant that Vietnam could have been overrun with cases. But it acted fast and did not wait for official warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) before it closed its borders, locked down its economy and launched mass testing, tracing and quarantine measures.

canadian newspaper praised vietnams fight against covid 19 as standard
(Data: European CDC)

The article also quoted Guy Thwaites, a professor of infectious diseases and the director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, said the country swung into action early because it was well aware of the dangers of unchecked infectious diseases. In the past 20 years, it has suffered from outbreaks of SARS, avian influenza, measles, dengue fever and hand-foot-and-mouth disease, which attacks young children.

“The Vietnamese are very respectful of the threat of infectious diseases and know they have to be treated early,” he said. “They were well prepared. Europe and North America seem to have forgotten about infectious diseases.”

canadian newspaper praised vietnams fight against covid 19 as standard
Morning rush hour is packed as usual in Hanoi on May 25. Free movement has largely been restored in Vietnam, a country of 97 million people. (Photo: The Globe and Mail)

The article lauds Vietnam made early efforts to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 before WHO announced it as pandemic. This is part of the reason for Vietnam's success to date. 

By then Vietnam had effectively declared its own emergency and was already clamping down. On Jan. 3, the day before the WHO said there was a cluster of cases – but no deaths – in Wuhan, Vietnam announced some border control measures. On Jan. 22, health authorities began monitoring body temperatures at border gates and started detection and contact tracing, with orders for the mandatory isolation of infected people and anyone they had come into contact with.

canadian newspaper praised vietnams fight against covid 19 as standard
Guy Thwaites is the director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam. (Photo: BPI)

By late January, 22 hospitals had been chosen to treat COVID-19 patients. Schools and universities were closed. In early February, all flights from China were stopped. By the end of the month, travellers entering Vietnam from any country with infections went into 14-day quarantine. In late March, the Communist government began locking down the economy, and it stayed shut until April 23.

Another reason for Vietnam's amazing achievements is the government's effective propaganda via social media. The government made generous use of social media starting in early February to educate its citizens about the outbreak and prevention measures, including physical distancing, mask use and hand washing. Its public-information videos, complete with catchy tunes, went viral around the world.

canadian newspaper praised vietnams fight against covid 19 as standard
More spectators arrive to watch the soccer match in Hung Yen. (Photo: AFP)

According to the Globe and Mail, a new academic report on Vietnam’s response to the pandemic, written by Prof. Thwaites and about 20 doctors and scientists, concluded that the early lockdown plus the extensive testing, contact tracing and mandatory quarantines for people who had come into contact with anyone who had tested positive were behind Vietnam’s success in preventing COVID-19 deaths. It said the tracing and quarantine measures were “especially effective given [that] nearly half of those infected did not develop symptoms.”

Prof. Thwaites said the tracing effort did not rely on sophisticated technology, such as smartphone apps that detect exposure to anyone who has come into contact with a virus carrier. “There wasn’t much technology at all,” he said. Also, Prof. Thwaites said Vietnam has a relatively young population, which helped prevent fatalities and contributed to the country's overall success over Covid-19. 

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Candy Lee