As the west grapples with a rising death toll and races to slow the spread of coronavirus, a rare success story may have emerged from a south-east Asian nation that claims to have seen no deaths.
Vietnam reported its first case of coronavirus in January. Fast-forward three months and the country has only had 270 active cases, and thus far, no one has died from it according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Their handling of the crisis has earned them praise from WHO, and is a point of hope and envy as death tolls continue to climb in the west.
In comparison, United States’ death toll has soared past 61,000; officially surpassing total American causalities in the Vietnam War.
On home soil, Australia has succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus, yet the death toll continues to rise after a cluster of deaths at Newmarch House, an aged-care facility in western Sydney.
Confirmed cases stand at 6,748 and the death toll clocks in at 91.
HANOI, VIETNAM – APRIL 17: Volunteers wear face masks amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while preparing free rice bags on April 17, 2020 in Hanoi, Vietnam. Several self-catering “rice ATMs, or rice dispensers, have been launched providing free rice to low-income earners to survive the pandemic. (Getty)
The country – which boasts a population of 100 million and shares a border with China, the epicentre of the virus – has now gone it’s 13th day without a new case of community transmitted infection.
The communist one-party state is no stranger to pandemics, having seen one of the first cases of SARS in 2003. Recognising COVID-19’s threat, Vietnam was quick to enact sweeping restrictions.
After the first death was reported in Wuhan on January 11th, Vietnam mobilised.
They restricted travel, tightened borders, and sat down with WHO officials to discuss what they could do next.
The government began openly and creatively communicating with its citizens, so they understood the seriousness of the disease.
On February 1 they closed their borders to flights to and from China. Airports started implementing temperature screenings and also introduced health declaration forms.
Testing capabilities were quickly scaled-up. To date, they’ve conducted over 133,000 tests the fourth-highest in the region after China, Malaysia and Singapore, according to the US-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies‘.
A national lockdown also began on April 1st. It was decreed that public gatherings of 20 or more people would be banned, and like Australia, non-essential services closed.
These measures slowed the spread of the disease so the healthcare system didn’t buckle under the strain of patients, ensuring each had time to recover.