The Australian Broadcasting Corporation published a news report last month, highlighting the success of Vietnam in combating the COVID-19 virus (‘How has Vietnam, a developing nation in South-East Asia, done so well to combat coronavirus?‘, 13 May).
So far, according to Worldometers, as of today (16 Jun), Vietnam has a total of 334 cases with 0 deaths while Singapore has 40,818 cases and 26 deaths.
At 6,979 confirmed cases per 1 million population, Singapore now ranks top 10 in the world. In fact, among the first world countries, Singapore has beaten others like USA, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, UK, Italy to become the most infected first world country on a per capita basis.
In Southeast Asia, Vietnam has certainly performed well in containing the virus.
“Zero deaths. It’s an achievement amid the coronavirus pandemic that governments from the United States to Italy can only dream of,” ABC wrote. “While cases of COVID-19 shoot up in wealthy Singapore and the disease continues on a worrying trend elsewhere in South-East Asia, Vietnam is an unlikely outlier.”
“Vietnam’s lack of coronavirus deaths remains the envy of the world,” it added.
Professor Mike Toole, a communicable diseases specialist with the Melbourne-based Burnet Institute, opined that Australia should not focus on Singapore and consider it a success story.
He told ABC, “Australia really focused on Singapore but Singapore is one of the greatest failures in the world now.”
Vietnam took swift measures in trying to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control.
“Its first risk assessment exercise was conducted in early January — soon after cases in China started being reported,” a World Health Organization’s representative to Vietnam told the media.
Professor Toole said Vietnam “acted probably faster than any country in the world outside China”.
By February 1, flag carrier Vietnam Airlines announced the suspension of all flights to and from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Borders were closed soon afterwards. Those returning to Vietnam have been required to quarantine for 14 days at Government-funded and operated facilities. Vietnam has isolated all people even suspected of being infected. Tens of thousands of people have been placed into quarantine.
By early March, Vietnamese scientists had already developed several low-cost test kits.
“By that point, the US didn’t even have an effective test,” Professor Toole said. “Vietnam had three.”
Of course, most important of all, Vietnam doesn’t import hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to work in Vietnam, cramming them in dormitories with some 20 workers per room the size of 4 room HDB flat.