With 2020 considered a special year for Vietnam due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic having a huge impact on all aspects of life, the Party’s correct direction and the Government’s prompt measures have led the country to bring the pandemic under control.
In late November 2019, when the first COVID-19 case was initially detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, people had no idea about the impact the SARS-CoV-2 virus would have. A few months later, the virus had already spread across China to many other countries worldwide. At present, more than 80 million people globally have been infected with the virus, with the COVID-19 pandemic claiming more than 1.8 million lives according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Most notably, the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the global economy, with many countries still struggling to cope with the complicated developments of the virus. Vietnam is no exception. On January 23, just two days before Vietnamese people were preparing to celebrate the traditional Lunar New Year holiday, a Chinese father and his son from Wuhan were announced to be the country’s first COVID-19 cases.
Within 20 days, between January 23 and February 13, a total of 16 cases were detected in the country, all of whom were closely linked to the Wuhan outbreak. Also on February 13, the country’s first COVID-19 hotspot was reported in the northern commune of Son Loi in Vinh Phuc province, with 11 local residents testing positive and nearly 11,000 others being quarantined.
The virus later spread to Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s most densely populated and largest economic hub, after a woman flying from the United States to the city’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport tested positive. She went on to transmit the virus to 11 other people, including five of her relatives.
The situation got worse after Bach Mai hospital, the largest in the north, recorded two infection cases on March 20, with a total of 46 cases being confirmed in the country’s largest COVID-19 hotspot.
The Ministry of Health moved to announce on March 20 that a British pilot working for Vietnam Airlines was diagnosed with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The patient had visited Buddha Bar in Ho Chi Minh City for a party, and a total of 18 people were infected with the virus in this hotspot.
The virus later spread to Ha Loi village on the outskirts of the capital where more than 10 infections were recorded. By late April the country had successfully brought the first COVID-19 outbreak under control.
Despite this, strong control efforts failed on July 7 following a case of community infection being reported in Da Nang, a centrally-run city and the largest tourist destination in the central region. Da Nang became the country’s latest epicentre of the second COVID-19 outbreak. As authorities could not trace patient zero, the virus went on to spread to plenty of localities nationwide.
On July 31 Vietnam recorded its first death caused by COVID-19, with the patient also suffering from underlying health issues. The number of fatalities had risen to 35 by September 3.
Several days after this the Ministry of Health announced the country had basically brought the second COVID-19 wave under control in a number of localities.
After going roughly three months without a single locally transmitted case, Ho Chi Minh City registered four new cases. However, fears of a third wave subsided following the implementation of drastic new measures. The city had halted the virus spread throughout the community after just a week.
With COVID-19 attacking Vietnam when local people were preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, known locally as Tet, shortly after the first case was reported on January 23, the Government held an emergency meeting to discuss ways of fighting the disease. The whole political system was mobilised to fight against the hidden enemy. Many meetings from central to local levels were held later to hammer out specific details regarding epidemic prevention.
On January 29, the Party Central Committee issued dispatch No. 79 on prevention and control efforts relating to acute respiratory infections caused by COVID-19. Emphasising the importance of epidemic prevention and control, the committee thereby called on the entire political system, armed forces, and people to implement prevention and control measures.
One day later, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed a decision to establish the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control led by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam. The PM later described the fight against COVID-19 as a fight against the enemy, and insisted the country would accept an economic loss for a short time in exchange to secure the health and safety of the people.
On March 30, Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong issued an appeal, calling on the entire political system and citizens no matter where they live to unite in the fight against the virus.
The Government later introduced a host of measures aimed at preventing the virus spreading throughout the wider community. Among the measures, it decided to suspend all international commercial flights to and from the nation whilst also imposing social distancing on a national scale. The Government also requested people to fully observe medical recommendations, including wearing face masks and avoiding large gatherings in public places, as well as thoroughly washing hands with sanitizer or soap.
All of these efforts eventually paid off, with COVID-19 outbreaks being kept under control and economic development getting back on track. In line with this, the country’s experience has been acknowledged internationally and it has since become a role model for others to follow.
The fight against COVID-19 has not ended in success without positive contributions made by soldiers and medical workers who remain at the forefront of the campaign. Many photos and video clips illustrate how hard they worked in order to combat the disease for the sake of the wider community.
The fight also serves to demonstrate the silent sacrifices made by plenty of doctors who paid farewell to their relatives in order to treat COVID-19 patients in hospital. This can be seen through the story of Nguyen Trung Cap, deputy director cum head of the Emergency Resuscitation Department of Hanoi-based Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases.
Cap was actively involved in examining, classifying, and treating many patients infected with the SASR-CoV-2 virus at the hospital. Indeed, he directly treated more than 30 positive patients, of whom approximately 20 were in a critical condition.
For months, he was forced to stay away from his family in order to take care and treat COVID-19 patients in hospital. He said that is is a normal occurrence that medical workers must be forced to accept when working in these special circumstances.
“A lot of my colleagues, either explicitly or quietly, have all done their best in the fight against the epidemic,” said Cap. “It is the responsibility and duty of medical workers who wear a white blouse.”
The success of the fight can also be attributed to the spirit of mutual assistance and sharing shown by Vietnamese people which has been upheld whenever the country faces difficulty.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the national economy, the Government has maintained the view that no one would be left behind in the fight, and that Vietnam is willing to continue sacrificing its economic interests to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The Government’s strong resolve has therefore generated motivation and fueled belief among the public to battle the disease.
Despite being hit hard by the pandemic, many businesses have been willing to lend a helping hand to those in need by donating money and medical equipment. Many VND0 supermarkets and rice ATMs were set up across the country in an effort to support citizens needing help.
Dr. Nguyen Manh Hung, chairman of the Board of Directors of Thai Ha Books, who launched a series of rice ATM in Hanoi and other localities nationwide, shared the challenges faced by disadvantaged people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I used to be in such a circumstance back in the 1970s, therefore I am aware of their sufferings and want to do something to help them,” said Dr. Hung.
Furthermore, it was not only the young, but also the elderly who joined hands in support of the needy. Heroic mother Ngo Thi Quyt, 95, of Ho Chi Minh City spent time sewing face masks for medical workers in the frontline, whilst other examples include a 78-year-old woman from Thanh Hoa province who pedaled her bike to the headquarters of the local administration to donate VND1 million to the cause.
Outside of the country, Vietnamese communities based throughout Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Pacific raised funds to support their compatriots at home.
It can be said that the miracle in the war against COVID-19 in the nation has led to great kindness being shown by citizens. It is not by chance that many countries, as well as the WHO, singled out the country for its efforts in defeating COVID-19 and have encouraged others to replicate the Vietnamese experience in poor and developing countries.
It is also not surprising that overseas Vietnamese, foreigners, and international students returning to the country for COVID-19 isolation or treatment were touched by the support and assistance provided by medical workers and those working at quarantine facilities.
Dang Ngoc Anh, a Vietnamese student in Germany, who was quarantined at a student dormitory complex in Hanoi, recalled her meeting with soldiers upon arrival at the quarantine facility, saying they worked very hard to take care of those put into isolation.
“They had to wait and receive returnees throughout the night, with some sleeping for just two to three hours a day,” said Anh.
Some foreign patients were also cured by Vietnamese doctors. Both the nation’s first two Chinese patients and the British pilot serve to show this. To save the British pilot, the Ministry of Health mobilised leading Vietnamese medical staff who worked with dedication and kindness. “Thank you, Vietnam” is a phrase which was repeatedly expressed by those who survived the disease before departing back to their native countries.
At present, whilst the number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities has kept increasing globally, Vietnam has basically controlled the virus. Indeed, the country has also started to officially test a locally-produced vaccine against COVID-19, a new step that supports the fight against the virus.
In order to achieve such positive results, Vietnam has synchronously and promptly co-ordinated many effective measures aimed at preventing the spread of the epidemic. The country has made public details such as the number of infected cases, suspected infections, and direct and indirect contacts with infected people, as a means of localising, isolating, and controling the epidemic.
Vietnam is also home to a contingent of highly qualified and dedicated medical staff, showing that it is no coincidence that the WHO praised the country’s capacity to address urgent public health issues by handling COVID-19 in a competent manner.
Along with that, Vietnam promptly moved to quarantine many infected and suspected patients, an effective solution that initially helped to ensure health care for people and their family living in epidemic areas.
Additionally, it is impossible not to mention the media’s effective contribution to the fight. Various media agencies have closely followed and provided the public with updates on epidemic developments, as well as preventive measures aimed at keeping the virus at bay within the community.
Although the war against COVID-19 is not yet over, Vietnamese people believe that with unity, devotion, and kindness, they will ultimately defeat this unique enemy.