Illustration by Trịnh Lập
The country’s fourth wave of the coronavirus has not even lasted three months, yet Việt Nam was struggling to keep the level of cases under control.
More than 100,000 people have tested positive for the virus in the country so far, and the curve is on a steep upward trajectory.
Since last week, more than 1,000 patients have recovered each day, but this does not make up for the up to 8,000 confirmed new cases every day.
On July 24, the Ministry of Health launched a new network of medical professionals on a Facebook page, announcing it wanted 2,500 volunteers to work online to assist in the fight against the pandemic.
"If you are an MD, a nurse, if you are still working or retired, if you're living in Việt Nam or elsewhere around the world, if you are a health worker, if your expertise is in any way related then the network needs you,” the Facebook page, named "Mạng lưới Thầy thuốc đồng hành" (Network of companion physicians), read.
The network went on to outline how volunteers were wanted to give advice and assistance to F0 and F1 patients, who are particularly vulnerable and need guidance.
“We see the frontline overwhelmed, we can mobilize the power of the community and coordinate these resources to divide the load,” the page continued, citing that it had been written by the “doctors and nurses in the executive committee of the Việt Nam Young Physicians Association.”
As we wait for the network to take effect, a heartwarming video went viral showing famous Vietnamese musician Trần Mạnh Tuấn wearing a mask while playing saxophone for 10,000 patients outside a makeshift field hospital set up in Hồ Chí Minh City. He described the moving performance as the most special stage he had played on.
In another message, Khổng Minh Tuấn, deputy director of the Centre for Disease Control in Hà Nội, called on people to stay where they are. "Our negligence can make us all pay really hard. We cannot catch all positive cases if you all do not all stay where you are," he warned.
There have been signs of disorganisation. It is hard to believe your own eyes when seeing hundreds of people waiting in crowded testing centres or trying to get printed results to pass checkpoints. Of course, this is not the people’s fault, but an institutional one. Organizational work needs to be improved.
An online video clip recently showed a sign that read “No more tests today”, while two delivery men were desperately waiting to get tested so they could load their truck and get to work.
"This testing process must be done better," read a comment below the video. "The centre should mark a 2m distance for people to come in and results should be sent online."
There have been warnings for some time. During the April 30 - May 1 holiday, pictures on social media showed people in the country rushing to beaches at precisely the time there was a catastrophic mounting of deaths in India.
At the time, people in Hà Nội and HCM City were asking, when will we be locked down? "I'd rather be locked down for two weeks to get the pandemic under control, so we can safely go back to work," was the thought of many.
But they waited for a lockdown that came very late, while the number of cases has skyrocketed over the last three months.
"Do you know of any other countries where people wanted to be locked down?" a friend of mine asked. "Do you know any other countries where people volunteered to donate to the country's vaccine fund?”
The answer is a definite “No”. Vaccines are free in developed countries. In some, people receive payment or can even win an apartment if they get vaccinated.
People want to have a life and get back to work. People want to respect the government order to quarantine and even to curfew after 6pm in HCM City.
Frontline doctors are exhausted. Eye-popping messages like "emptied Pfizer bottle refilled with water sold at VNĐ10 million per bottle" are hard to prove, but nevertheless cause alarm and doubt. When things get out of control, it is very difficult to make up for lost time. People’s enormous efforts are undermined.
Before the lockdown became effective in Hà Nội on July 24, I ordered some marinated fish and dried shrimp from Huế. My package came without the shrimps, and I alerted the vendor.
He told me it had happened before and not to worry. "I'll resend you another package," he said.
"I’m sure the people that took it had their reasons. I see it as giving away to charity and take the loss on it. Please be kind to the shippers, they work really hard," he added.
His words deeply touched my heart. Over the phone, he could not see that I had shed a tear at his humanity. In these difficult times, the country needs to take a leaf out of his book. Come on, Việt Nam! Be strong, be kind, be compassionate! VNS