More developed states face overwhelmed health systems due to COVID-19, but for Vietnam, the southeast Asian country took immediate action and kept the virus in control, according to Veronique Maeva Fages of World Economic Forum, an international organization. Vietnam is known for its experience in addressing SARS, MERS, measles, and dengue outbreaks. Fast forward to 2020, Vietnam took advantage of cost-effective safety measures to curb the virus such as contact tracing via apps, strategic testing, effective public communication campaigns, and more.
How the COVID-19 Outbreak Affected Consumers and Businesses In Vietnam
Nielsen Vietnam, an information, data, and measurement firm, and market research firm Infocus Mekong Mobile Panel surveyed 5,000 consumers in Ho Chi Minh, Ha Noi, and Da Nang in Vietnam on February 21, 2020. The poll revealed that Vietnamese consumers continued to follow news updates of COVID-19 multiples times a day (65%).
Their top sources of information were social media (82%), text messages from the Ministry of Health (79%), and news on TV (78%). 95% felt afraid of the virus, but they did not think that the risk of transmission was high in Vietnam. Further, most respondents felt that the outbreak will last two to three months.
The Vietnamese were also taking precautions to safeguard themselves from COVID-19 such as wearing a mask when they go out of the house (89%), washing their hands frequently with soap (87%), and avoiding public places or crowded places (81%). The pandemic also affected the general behaviors of the Vietnamese, with 47% reported changing their eating habits and 60% changing their entertainment/fun activities. 70% had reevaluated their travel plans while 44% felt their income has been affected.
Moreover, 40% and 35% said they spent more time watching TV or online content, respectively. The pandemic had also altered shopping and out-of-home consumption habits, with 45% reported stocking up with more food at home than before. 50% of Vietnamese said they have reduced their frequency of visits to groceries, supermarkets, and wet markets. Meanwhile, 25% admitted that they have increased their online shopping and minimized their out-of-home consumption occasions.
In another survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vietnam, a firm that belongs to a global network of 124 French Chambers in 93 countries with more than 36,000 companies, 13% of the participating companies expected activity to restart by early May.
However, 32% believed that activity will resume in the next two to three months. 27% were more pessimistic, as they do not expect any activity before at least early July. 28% were uncertain about the resumption of activity. In the first semester of 2020, 26% anticipated a reduction of revenue of over 60% and overall, 53% evaluated their annual revenue to be affected by at least 30%. Companies implemented measures to address the pandemic by having a remote working system (74%), canceling business trips (70%), implementing “Corona Virus Protection” measures (50%), and having employees on quarantine (33%).
What Did Vietnam Do to Control the Pandemic?
1. Strategic Testing
Since it has experience in addressing previous outbreaks like SARS and H5N1, the first reports of the virus from China prompted Vietnam to monitor border areas to curb the virus’s transmission. The country then quarantined communities where COVID-19 was detected. After China reported its first death on January 11, Vietnam conducted health checks at airports. Visitors had their temperature checked while individuals with fever, chest pain, cough, or breathing difficulties were isolated for testing.
For 14 days, the crew, passengers, their contacts, and other confirmed cases were quarantined. On January 15, the Health Ministry met with the WHO and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even before other countries started formulating strategies to address the pandemic. Vietnam’s quick action and testing helped it slow the virus’s spread in its earliest stages.
2. Contact Tracing
Vietnam imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people arriving in the country. All international flights were canceled and those showing signs of COVID-19 were monitored in medical facilities. Their contacts were also traced. The records of infected, suspected, and exposed of COVID-19 by the Ministry of Health made extensive contact tracing possible due to “the rapid mobilization of health professionals, public security personnel, the military, and civil servants.”
Contact tracing owed its success to technology, with the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) developing a mobile app called NCOVI to reminds the public to update their health status on a daily basis. The app also shares “hotspots” of new cases and gives people some “best practices” to stay healthy.
3. Information Campaigns
According to the International Monetary Fund, an organization of 189 countries, details regarding the symptoms of COVID-19, protecting measures, and testing sites were disseminated through mass media, a government website, and posters at hospitals, offices, residential buildings, and markets.
Information was also made available through public grassroot organizations, text messages, and voice messages before a call is made. Aside from the app, these combined measures built up trust among the public and helped society follow protective and containment measures. Vietnam created a pop music video that emphasized the importance of handwashing. Since it was effective and memorable, the video went viral and was shared across the globe.
Additionally, the country spearheaded a fundraising campaign on March 19 to purchase medical and PPEs for individuals closely working with COVID-19 patients. These public measures helped control the virus and increased people’s awareness of the outbreak.
4. Testing Kits
Vietnam purchased 200,000 tests from South Korea and swiftly developed its own test kits within one month. The kits were effective, affordable, and fast as it can diagnose suspected COVID-19 infections in 60 minutes. The testing kits, along with utilizing WHO-approved techniques, helped isolate infected patients and trace their contacts. Other countries depend on mass testing but in Vietnam, the southeast Asian conducted tests on people who are likely to be infected with the virus.
Less Is More
Vietnam has proven that less is more to manage the outbreak. Perhaps the country will reduce the number of infections with its measures now and in the future. Unfortunately, Vietnam’s strategy disrupted immunization programs, preventing kids from accessing lifesaving vaccines.
Vietnam spearheaded extreme, but sensible measures to control the outbreak. Some of these measures include the rapid development of testing kits and mass information campaigns. Vietnam has the potential to serve as a role model for other countries with regard to addressing the virus.