The father of the Vietnamese nation, Ho Chi Minh, once noted that: “The storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.” Vietnam has so far shown strength and stability in weathering the COVID-19 storm, and offers a successful example of how a developing country can fight a pandemic.
While its economy has suffered a significant blow due to weakened demand and reduced trade, the effective containment strategy should allow for a quicker rebound.
At the outset, it was expected to be an uphill battle. Vietnam was regarded as highly vulnerable, given its long border and extensive trade with China, densely populated urban areas, and limited healthcare infrastructure. But Vietnam’s cost-effective containment strategy resulted in only 352 confirmed cases and no deaths in a population of almost 100 million people. The country was among the first to lift virtually all domestic containment measures.
Vietnam’s successful strategy was informed by its experience with previous outbreaks, like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, in 2003. Early on, the Prime Minister prioritized health above economic concerns. The strategy was swiftly deployed with the help of the military, public security services, and grass-root organizations, which speaks to some features unique to Vietnam. Effective and transparent communications won the population’s buy-in, and contains broader lessons for developing countries.