|Amy Searight, senior adviser and director of the Southeast Asia Program at the CSIS (Photo: Zing)
In an article published on the website of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Washington D.C., the United States, Amy Searight, senior adviser and director of the Southeast Asia Program at the CSIS, outlines Southeast Asian efforts to respond to the COVID-19 in an in-depth analysis, in which she heaps praise on Vietnam.
According to Searight, Southeast Asian countries have generally bore the brunt of the COVID-19, with a surge of new cases being reported over the past week in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Singapore. Only Thailand and Vietnam have seen the number of daily cases drop, a positive sign that indicates both nations could be making progress in ‘flattening the curve’.
When the first COVID-19 wave began to spread outside of China, it was Singapore and Vietnam who got off to an early start in responding to the initial outbreak, therefore serving to bring the epidemic under control in each of the respective territories. Indeed, both countries moved to enact extensive surveillance, monitoring, contact tracing, and isolation of any infected individuals or anyone who came into contact with the disease, albeit using different methods.
Despite initial success, Searight notes that a huge spike in cases hitting Singapore over the past week has disrupted the island nation’s status as a global leader in containing the epidemic. With a daily record jump of 1,400 new cases on April 20 alone, Singapore has emerged as the largest COVID-19 hotspot in Southeast Asia.
Searight goes on to single out Vietnam for its ability to endure the epidemic remarkably well, with only 268 cases reported out of a total population of 95.5 million, with not a single reported death so far. In explaining the reasons for this success, she said that from the outset of the epidemic the country quickly shut down all non-essential businesses and schools, in addition to enacting large-scale quarantines.
The nation’s aggressive contact tracing of positive cases has helped to identify and quarantine any suspected individuals along with those who came into contact with them. The government has also been able to mobilise retired doctors, nurses, and medical students to aid in the fight against the COVID-19, while some entrepreneurs have set up Rice ATMs as a means of providing out of work people with food.
In summarising the nation’s approach, Searight states that Vietnam was among the hardest hit by the SARS outbreak in 2003, therefore it has been determined to be better prepared for subsequent pandemics. The government is highly centralised, unified, and well organised, whilst the “culture of surveillance” serves to be both highly effective in monitoring and communicating information to citizens, in addition to receiving their strong support.