Coronavirus pandemic: Vietnam

Social distancing measures eased as cases plateau

Motorists in Hanoi yesterday. Vietnam has been under partial lockdown since the beginning of this month, but the government has said that some shops and services will be allowed to reopen.
Motorists in Hanoi yesterday. Vietnam has been under partial lockdown since the beginning of this month, but the government has said that some shops and services will be allowed to reopen.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HANOI • Vietnam eased social distancing measures yesterday, with experts pointing to a decisive response involving mass quarantines and expansive contact tracing for the apparent success in containing the coronavirus.

Despite a long and porous border with China, the South-east Asian nation has recorded just 268 virus cases and zero deaths, according to official tallies.

Although the numbers tested for Covid-19 are relatively low, and experts cautioned that the authoritarian government's Health Ministry is the sole source for the figures, they also said there is little reason to distrust them.

Vietnam was one of the first nations to ban flights to and from mainland China in early February, when it had barely more than a dozen cases. More than 10,000 people in villages close to Hanoi, the country's capital, were placed under quarantine.

There has also been aggressive contact tracing. One 72-year-old Hanoi resident described how he and a team in his community had been tasked with zeroing in on any suspected cases, falling back on grassroots Communist Party networks in charge of overseeing neighbourhoods.

"We go to each and every alley, knocking on each and every door," Mr Nguyen Trinh Thang told Agence France-Presse.

Vietnam's success in convincing the public to cooperate has been key, noted Mr Takeshi Kasai, the World Health Organisation's Western Pacific regional director.

"They're really doing their part," he said, adding that he believed around 80,000 people were placed under quarantine.

Vietnam has been under partial lockdown since the beginning of this month. After reporting no new infections for the sixth consecutive day on Wednesday, the government said that some shops and services will be allowed to reopen.

Yesterday, a few of the capital's cafes resumed service, while some schools in the country will reopen next week.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2020, with the headline 'Social distancing measures eased as cases plateau'. Print Edition | Subscribe