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Vietnam’s Low-Cost COVID-19 Strategy

Tightened border controls, agile health departments, tech platforms, and a hand-washing song that went viral have added up to a frugal but highly effective response to the threat of COVID-19. The country's success provides a model that other developing and emerging economies should follow.

BEPPU – As COVID-19 expands across the southern hemisphere, governments there have a lot to learn from Vietnam’s approach. Clear communication and government-citizen cooperation that leveraged technology are the main reasons why the country has had relatively few cases.

Much attention has been paid to other models in Asia. Taiwanese health authorities investigated cases of pneumonia reported in Wuhan before community spread occurred. South Korea installed a nonstop emergency response system to screen all travelers entering the country from Wuhan in early January. Similarly, Singapore mobilized an inter-agency taskforce for extensive contact tracing, targeted community quarantine, and aggressive testing, while also covering the costs of screening and treatment.

These countries’ timely response was rooted in their leaders’ palpable awareness of the severity of the new virus. Vietnam’s government tightened border controls and set hospitals and local health departments on high alert for the new pneumonia cases on January 3 – before the first fatality in China and only three days after confirmation of the outbreak there. Vietnam’s first cases were recorded on January 23, and the situation appeared to be under control until an additional wave of cases fueled by foreign tourists and returning travelers and students. Still, Vietnam managed the crisis so well that it avoided becoming a hot spot.