On Tuesday, Vietnam recorded its first locally transmitted Covid-19 case in three months. The virus was spread from a flight attendant in self-quarantine who had recently returned from Japan. In violation of quarantine regulations, the flight attendant received a visitor to his home, and both men subsequently tested positive.
Vietnam has become known for its so far highly successful approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Coupling extremely strict border controls with relative openness internally, the densely populated country of nearly 100 million people has recorded just 1,358 coronavirus cases all year, while the economy has grown an estimated 2.4 percent.
Vietnam’s borders are effectively closed. The only exceptions are experts who can apply to the national government for entry, arguing that their work in Vietnam is necessary for the country’s economy. Entrants also have to provide a negative Covid-19 test result.
Software developer Enrique López-Mañas recently shone a light on the process on Twitter. López-Mañas flew into Ho Chi Minh City from Doha on a flight with just eight passengers and proceeded through the airport interacting only with staff wearing full-body personal protective equipment. He was then given full-body PPE to wear, was driven to a quarantine hotel alone in a mini-bus, tested again for the virus, then directed to a hotel room for two weeks. Restrictions have since been loosened for business and government-related travel between Vietnam and certain other East Asian countries, which led to the current case.
Vietnam’s handling of the pandemic has been praised in other respects too. Earlier in the year, the government was applauded for delivering free meals to households affected by targeted neighborhood lock-downs. Vietnam has also conducted more tests per positive result than any other country since May, as you can see above. One entrepreneur even set up “rice ATMs” for the unemployed to access a daily ration.
The pandemic stress test continues producing surprising variations from one society to the next.