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How Did Vietnam Become the Largest Nation Without Coronavirus Deaths?

Vietnam has reported no coronavirus deaths — and, for more than two months, no local infections (with a total for this year of just 349) — despite having a population of 97 million and a border shared with China. VOA News takes a closer look:
It is hard for outsiders to verify official data, though health experts say Vietnam headed off a full-blown calamity because of its drastic and early action. The government was hyper-aware of the threat to hospital and quarantine capacity… Vietnam saw the disease as a threat early on, treating its first patient in January and proceeding to contact trace and restrict movement. Timing was critical because of the virus’ ability to spread exponentially. The Ho Chi Minh City government said, for instance, that for every 300 people infected, 84,000 people had to quarantine. It is likely that Vietnam did not have to cover up mass infections and deaths because it acted before the virus could reach that point…

In addition to national coordination, targeted testing and isolation, Vietnam can decree measures regardless of public debate, like tapping a national security network to monitor the physical and virtual space… On one hand, Vietnam used fines and takedown orders to curb the spread of false information about the virus, as have other nations. On the other hand, the controls continue a history of censorship of information that the Southeast Asian government considers unfavorable.

Social media allowed some false information to spread in Vietnam, but also greatly heightened people’s awareness of the virus and what they should do, concluded a study by 11 authors published in April in Sustainability, a science journal. Vietnam’s success, they said, came from “mobilizing citizens’ awareness of disease prevention without spreading panic, via fostering genuine cooperation between government, civil society and private individuals.”
Some examples from the article:

  • Standing vice chairman of the People’s Committee, Le Thanh Liem, urged local authorities and other relevant agencies to visit every house to find out if anyone had come from other countries since March 8 and test and quarantine anyone at risk at home or quarantine areas.
  • Those entering a cafe have a good chance of meeting a security guard who sprays their hands with disinfectant.
  • If getting on a bus, they will be told to put on a mask and sit one row apart from others.

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