Back in March Vietnam was lucky to get away with just a low figure of infections and had kept it that way with strict and draconian style quarantine. That was good. For a while things seemed to be getting back to normal and lives goes on within the country.
But then complacency sets in Vietnam squandered the publicly praised COVID-19 containment away.
Why I did said Vietnam was lucky? Vietnam was lucky because their understanding of the COVID-19 virus was elementary and inept, but yet they had very low infection rate in the beginning. I will explain more why I felt Vietnam’s understanding of COVID-19 was inept.
For once I thought they had beat the odds and had done better, way better, than all other advance nations in containing the COVID-19 spread. But in further readings into the second wave that hit Vietnam in Da Nang, it became clear to me that Vietnam got away being lucky initially. And luck alone is not going to contain COVID-19.
Storm brewing on the horizon
When Vietnam started to repatriate Vietnamese citizens from overseas people knew it will not bod well. For we all now know that the “standard recommended” quarantine measures and procedural-purpose temperature checking are not going to make the cut.
Reports from all over the world had shown that COVID-19 carriers were known to not show any symptoms loner beyond the 14 days period. The 14 days quarantine period in my opinion was inadequate. It was a practice adopted from the SARs era. It should not be applicable to COVID-19. Same as for temperature checking since we all now know that people are found to be spreading the virus even without any symptoms.
And the influx of people continued with the business as usual attitude.
Pubs and bars were serving up drinks, social distancing became a thing of the past, and people were delighted that wearing of the face masks has come to an end.
The best place to be on this planet back in July was VIETNAM! We saw tsunamis of photographs of our friends partying in Saigon. Bui Vien was bustling with life again. It even prompted my wife to look for air ticket to go back to Saigon.
But there is no place for complacency, not this COVID-19.
Tip of the ice berg
Then everything went south the day it made it to the news that there were locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in Da Nang.
I was not surprised at all when the news broke. In fact I was expecting it to be sooner because all it takes is just one infected person to cross the border illegally, or one person who returned from overseas and escaped detection.
The entire country’s defences was down. Nobody is on sentry duty. So why am I not surprised. The sentries themselves were partying while patient ZERO strolled right into camp, and joined the sentries at the party.
And the day they announced the first locally transmitted case in Da Nang it was not an image of what actually happened on that day. We must remember that COVID-19 has a mean incubation period 5.2 days in studies. This means that those people were infected 5.2 days before that.
And there are certainly more infected who went under the radar. And let’s not forget about the rare but deadly people who had longer incubation period or people who are asymptomatic. And that the infected cases is a function of testing.
Since there were no active testing going on prior to this there is no cases so as to speak.
And now that people in other cities have been coming up with positive testing my fear is rear – containment in Vietnam may not be possible.
Everybody must play ball
When the first locally transmitted case surfaced back in 24 July 2020 they performed test on the man for 4 times! WTF? Either they could not believe their eyes or they have no confident with their testing to begin with.
This person went to a medical center in Ngu Hanh Son District in Da Nang, then he went to visit his mother at a hospital, then he developed the symptoms.
And despite developing symptoms typical of COVID-19 he went on to attend a party!!?
And as if it was not enough he attended another wedding party a few days later. And as if testing the man 4 times was not enough, they made him test for the fifth time. 5TH TIMES!!!!
And in Vietnam people may actually shunt reporting their where about making contact tracing in-affective. Contact tracing only works if everybody plays ball and report their visits to locations.
Lack containment and slow response
If nothing breaks why fix it.
This was Vietnam’s mentality. If the model we used back in March works why change it now?
Well, the downside for Vietnam’s early success in containing COVID-19 was that they have stopped all fights on the COVID-19 front. They simply “moved on”. Meanwhile, the world has evolved and become very efficient in detection, quarantine, treatment, quarantine, monitor…. repeat if necessary.
After detecting their first local case, after 5 tests, waited, checked results, Vietnam shut down international flights in and out of Da Nang on the 25 July 2020. Domestic flights were business as usual.
Wait a minute…
Why should domestic flights still be allowed if there was a local case running around in Da Nang? And that he most likely contracted it 5.2 days ago. This was the first deadly mistake.
When the first news of a new corona virus spreading in Wuhan, China made a tough and draconian decision to seal the city of Wuhan off in an attempt to stemmed the spread to other cities. But alas it was already too late and flights were already sending people all over China and the world.
So here we have Da Nang still allowing flights in and out of Da Nang.
And in an effort to find a scape goat, they went witch hunting for illegal entry foreigners. Meanwhile, they were still hurling in citizens from overseas in the hundreds.
On the next day, 26 July 2020, Da Nang imposed social distancing measures. The measures included a ban on gathering of more than 30 people outside public offices, schools, and hospitals.
Again, WTF? What kind of social distancing allows gathering of up to 30 people? In most other countries, social distancing means less than a handful, some even less than 3 people in a group. And in Vietnam, right in the epicenter of the second wave we are seeing a gathering of up to 30 people still allowed. *face palm* This was the second deadly mistake.
In my opinion, social distancing means you should not gather in groups of more than 5 people.
Allowed to spread to other cities
And inter-province and intra-province transport can go on as long as safety measures are in place. WTF?
Nobody. Repeat, NOBODY should be allowed to go in and out of Da Nang, period. This way you limit the spread. But instead, people were trying to flee Da Nang, clean or infected. And they were allowed to do so. *face palm*
When you contain those people in Da Nang, you can perform test, quarantine, and release method. It will be a colossus job to trace down and quarantine them once they fled to other cities, or even impossible to trace down.
This was the third deadly mistake. They allowed people to flee ground zero.
Only later on 28 July 2020 was the ban imposed on all movement in and out of Da Nang. But it was too late.
Meanwhile, we were seeing adhoc news about the authority sealing off certain apartment building in certain district in Saigon whereby a resident there was confirmed to have COVID-19. This was futile.
The entire country should have gone into its highest alert level back on 26 July. No city should have exception.
However, economics ultimately is still more important than the lives of some. To put it in a blunt way, it is either some unfortunate will die of COVID-19, or A LOT OF PEOPLE will die because of no money.
On 3 August 2020, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stated that, quote: “Extensive social distancing unnecessary in Ho Chi Minh City at present“
For now, the rest of the world is moving forward with advance app powered location contact tracing etc. while Vietnam has been left behind. The ironic thing is Vietnam is one of the most outsourced location for mobile app development.