Home Asia After Successful Mitigation, Coronavirus Pandemic Engulfs Vietnam; Bewilders Experts

After Successful Mitigation, Coronavirus Pandemic Engulfs Vietnam; Bewilders Experts

Engulfs Vietnam

Engulfs Vietnam

Vietnam had recently impressed the Global community by its aggressive and successful measures at containing the coronavirus pandemic in the country. As early as March, the country was swift to seal its borders to all the travellers except those returning home. All International entrants were duly quarantined and tested by the government and extensive contact tracing was carried out throughout the country.

Over the past three months, Vietnam witnessed no recorded cases. As half of July passed, Vietnam became an exception to the crippling effects of the prevalent global health disaster, as no reported deaths and locally transmitted cases were recorded within its boundaries.

But toward the end of July, Vietnam’s government issued a warning that the entire nation was at the brink of a widespread coronavirus infection. This warning came in the wake of an outbreak that was traced back to a new case reported from the capital, Da Nang. The latter half of July recorded about 30 cases which had connections to the resort city of Da Nang.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged the nation to unite once again in the renewed battle against the pandemic. He said, “We have to act more swiftly and more fiercely in order to control the outbreak.” It was also reported that the strain of the virus that had recurred and infected people in Vietnam, seemed to be different from what was studied in Vietnam earlier this year.

A tourist hub, Da Nang soon became the epicenter of the latest outbreak in the country, the source of which has baffled scientists and health experts. Within no time the cases rapidly rose after almost hundred days zero recorded local spreads. A country that had not  witnessed even a single death due to the infection till date, recorded its first Covid-19 death last week. The death toll  has since escalated to 10, causing extreme frenzy amongst people and the government.

In his interview with the BBC, Dr Huong Le Thu, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said, “The new deaths reported shows that there is transparency in reporting Covid-19 in Vietnam and that previous ‘no deaths’ should have not been questioned in the first place.”

The resurgence has made the medical researchers ponder over what might have gone wrong in the globally lauded efforts by the Vietnamese government to contain the virus. Prof Rogier van Doorn, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Hanoi said that the source of the new upsurge is a “big mystery”. The first recorded victim of coronavirus resurgence was a 57 year old man in Da Nang. The authorities have still not been able to trace where the man contracted the virus from.

Speculations in the media suggest that the latest breakout could be a result of a more resistant and vitriolic strain of the virus. China-Vietnam border infiltration for smuggling has also been blamed by certain people for the influx of the virus in the country.  But researchers suggest that it is more likely that the virus might have gone undetected during the past months, when  people may have been symptomatically carrying and transmitting the virus in the community. They also said that chances are that the premature release of certain people quarantined in the initial days might have resulted in the surfacing of new cases presently.

Prof Droon’s team in Hanoi has been working on “genetic detective work” along with the support of the government in order to shed some light on the “chains of transmission [and] Who or where the virus came from,” via gene sequencing. Dr Justin Beardsley, a senior lecturer in infectious diseases at the University of Sydney said, “There’s evidence [the virus] was circulating in Da Nang for several weeks before that first case was diagnosed.”

The amount of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country have now gone beyond 780 since late July. The deputy health minister announced on Wednesday that the cases are expected to escalate and the pandemic  would reach its peak in 10 days in Vietnam. It was reported that around 80,000 domestic tourists, who were in the coastal resort city of Da Nang, have been made to travel back to their hometowns. Following this, new cases have been detected in a total of 14 cities and provinces in Vietnam, including Da Nang and Ho Chi minh City.

In the wake of the current crisis, Vietnam is going back to its prior aggressive measures and the entire nation has moved into a complete lockdown, yet again. Beaches and streets have become empty as all the eating joints, dine outs and deliveries have been shut down. All domestic as well as international flights have also been cancelled. The new mandate requires every resident to be tested for the virus, for the purpose of which field hospital within a sports stadium has been constructed. All activities in bars and karaoke parlours in Hanoi have come to a halt, while marks have been made mandatory in public places in Ho Chi minh City.

The country’s healthcare system has become extra vigilant and proactive as hospitals  throughout have increased preventive measures. The new outbreak has come as an unfortunate development for Vietnam, undoing all its commendable efforts in the past.

Vietnam had inspired faith in the rest of the world and had emerged as a successful case study for the containment of the virus. In contrast to the other countries, Vietnam had acted swiftly by enforcing stringent border restrictions and carrying out active and large scale testing. Praising the government’s prompt action post the recent outbreak and keeping faith, Prof Van Doorn said, “What was successful before is being done again. I’m again impressed.”