NEW DELHI: Vietnam reported its first coronavirus case on January 23, 2020. Over 190 days later, the country reported its first death from Covid-19 on Friday.
On Friday, Vietnam also reported its highest single-day tally with 50 cases. As of July 31, the country has just over 500 total cases to date. The country also has no local cases so far.
However, experts worry the actual number of cases could be far higher. Before the latest outbreak, it had a total of only 416 cases.
Active detection and containment strategy
This early success has been attributed to several key factors, including a well-developed public health system, a strong central government, and a proactive containment strategy based on comprehensive testing, tracing, and quarantining.
The country adopted a targeted approach to testing. It increased the test frequency in areas where there was community transmission. It also conducted “three degrees of contact tracing” for each positive case.
As a result of its proactive detection strategy, the country was able to place thousands of people in quarantine centres run by the government. Hot spots were sealed immediately.
Vietnam’s experience with SARS and avian influenza
One of the other reasons for the country’s success in tackling coronavirus has been its past experiences with SARS in 2003 and avian influenza between 2004 and 2010.
After having experienced two pandemics within a short interval, the country made substantial investments in its health programmes. From 2000 to 2016, the public health expenditures per capita increased by an average rate of 9.0 per cent per year.
In 2003, it was the first country to be recognised by the World Health Organisation to be SARS-free.
A lot of interventions invented by Vietnam to fight SARS are now being used against coronavirus.
At the core of the country’s response to the SARS virus had been the establishment of a national public health emergency operations centre and a national public health surveillance system.
The emergency operations centre conducted regular exercise and training much before the outbreak of coronavirus to prepare key government agencies for a pandemic.
The country has a robust system to collect and aggregate date from public health departments. It shifted to a nearly real-time, web-based system as early as 2009.
By 2016, hospitals were required to report notifiable diseases within 24 hours to a central database.
The country’s earlier experiences with pandemics, it appears, has made the general public more aware and willing to comply with the government’s orders.