Vietnam says its COVID-19 outbreak is contained with zero deaths and minimal cases

As of May 6, Vietnam has recorded a mere 271 cases and zero deaths of COVID-19. With a population of 96 million people, this has been no easy feat. In comparison, the Philippines has a population of over 109 million people and has recorded a total of 9,684 cases with 637 deaths.

How did they do it? Quick government response, aggressive testing, transparency, and compliance of its citizens.

Image Credit: REUTERS/Kham

(South Korea reports ZERO new domestic COVID-19 cases)

The Vietnamese government was able to respond to the COVID-19 threat early on and made sure its citizens were aware of it. By January 28, Vietnam had recorded 2 cases of the disease and that was enough to spur them into action. They announced that the government was readying themselves for thousands of cases – a scenario they have not yet had to deal with.

Using this directive Vietnam then swiftly imposed a series of travel bans and the mandatory use of face masks in public. Flights from Wuhan, China were suspended as early as January 23 while its border with China was essentially closed.

At the same time, government officials began contacting private companies with experience in medical testing. These companies were asked to aid the government in developing its COVID-19 testing program. From its initial 3 testing laboratories in January, Vietnam currently has 112 laboratories operating under a public-private partnership.

As of April 30, Vietnam had conducted 261,004 tests. This puts their ratio at 791 tests to every confirmed case — the highest in the world, according to Reuters. To put this in perspective, Taiwan trails as the next highest with 140 tests for every case.

They were able to achieve this, in part, by prioritizing the production of COVID-19 tests. In late February, Vietnam was already sourcing crucial components needed to mass-produce COVID-19 testing kits from the United States and Germany.

Meanwhile, researchers at Vietnam’s state-run Military Medical University working with Viet A Corp had already designed their own test kit and acquired government license to produce them. The company’s test kits have already provided Vietnam with 250,000 tests.

The other side to Vietnam’s aggressive testing was a thorough contact-tracing program and the quarantine of tens of thousands of people.

According to The Guardian, Vietnam based their testing on a four-level principle: confirmed Covid-19 patients and their direct contacts (level 1: isolation and treatment in hospitals); close contacts with level 1 (level 2: quarantine facilities); close contacts with level 2 (level 3: self-quarantine at home); and lockdown of the neighborhood/village/town where the patient lives (level 4).

They were able to locate possible COVID-19 cases at such a wide scale by publishing the detailed travel history of each patient on social media and in local newspapers to quicken contract-tracing. They also developed a mobile app that allows people to alert authorities about suspected infections in their area.

“The steps are easy to describe but difficult to implement, yet they’ve been very successful at implementing them over and over again,” said Matthew Moore, a Hanoi-based official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While some may question the authenticity of the numbers Vietnam is claiming, numerous institutions have verified its reports.

Kidong Park, the World Health Organization’s representative in Vietnam, confirmed that there is no indication of any outbreaks beyond what has been reported by the government. While the director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, the laboratory which has been processing COVID-19 tests, has said that their data is in line with that of the government.

“If there was ongoing and unreported or unappreciated community transmission, we would have seen the patients in our hospital. We have not,” Director Guy Thwaites stated.

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