At a meeting with health officials and city leaders on Wednesday afternoon, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued a decision to extend the COVID-19 social distancing campaign for Hanoi, Saigon and 10 other cities and provinces until 22 April – but perhaps more interestingly, he also shed light on the government’s strategy going forward.
Other than Hanoi and Saigon, the extension of social distancing applies to Lao Cai, Quang Ninh, Bac Ninh, Ninh Binh, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Binh Thuan, Khanh Hoa, Ha Tinh, and Tay Ninh. In practical terms, the decision means that people can still be fined for not wearing masks in public places or for gathering in groups of more than two people, and that they are strongly advised not to leave homes unless absolutely necessary. Restaurants are only allowed to offer take-away meals and deliveries while travel in the country remains restricted to a great extent.
According to Prime Minister, these measures are to be lifted gradually and separately for each locality, in a prudent and patient manner. And while he lauded the nationwide effort to contain the virus, PM Phuc was quick to stress the need to remain cautious and vigilant, with the risk of local virus hotspots turning into large outbreaks still at a considerable level. Another meeting is to be held next week to decide whether to further extend the social distancing campaign and as for the current exit-entry restrictions, Prime Minister added that they need to remain in force until at least 30 April.
Ever since the campaign started on 1 April, Vietnam has experienced a significant decrease in COVID-19 infections, to single digits on most days. While many countries around the world have seen the number of their fatalities burst into the thousands, Vietnam has recorded no coronavirus-related deaths till date. The number of all confirmed infections in Vietnam stood at 268 cases this morning, with only 97 of them still active and 171 patients already cured – including a 74-year-old British man who successfully recovered from critical condition and was discharged from hospital on Monday.
Because of its strong response to the virus, Vietnam has garnered praise from various media and authorities from around the world and has been set as an example for other countries to learn from. The main reasons behind Vietnam’s success as quoted by most sources are the country’s robust public health system, strict quarantine measures and early closure of borders, efficient contact tracing as well as decisive leadership and the nation’s unity.
The World Health Organisation has praised Vietnam for its “proactiveness and consistency throughout the response,” while the World Economic Forum has lauded Vietnam’s rapid reaction to the sudden outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The Financial Times has run a piece on how Vietnam has managed to stave off the virus with a “low-cost model”, while Deutsche Presse-Agentur, a German news agency, has commended Vietnam’s better-safe-than-sorry attitude and observed bitterly that most other countries have failed to follow suit.