|A 12th grader in Hà Nội's Phan Đình Phùng High school has his temperature checked before entering school. Hà Nội reopened schools to 12th graders on Monday after about seven months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. — VNA/VNS Photo Tuấn Anh
HÀ NỘI — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe impacts to all parts of life across Việt Nam in 2021. A survey has found that the biggest concerns of Vietnamese people during the pandemic has been their health and their children's education.
The sociological survey, called “Citizens' Opinions of and Experiences with the Government Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Việt Nam”, found that 68 per cent of respondents are concerned or very concerned about their health condition, while 77 per cent are concerned or very concerned about their children’s education.
Conducted between 17 September and 15 October 2021 by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Mekong Development Research Institute (MDRI), with support from the Australian Government’s Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the survey questioned 1,501 randomly selected people.
The results show that COVID-19 has negatively impacted employment and income, with 24 per cent of respondents losing their jobs and 77 per cent reporting income reduction, especially among the poor, ethnic minorities, unskilled, non-agricultural, self-employed, the service sector and those living in areas locked-down for longer. Up to 20 per cent of respondents said that they did not have any income due to the pandemic.
When asked if they had to skip meals due to the lack of money to buy food since August this year, four per cent of them said “Yes”.
Regarding alternative ways to respond to income loss, 67 per cent said they reduced consumption of non-essentials, 59 per cent reduced consumption of essentials, 35 per cent used private savings, 20 per cent borrowed from friends/family and 12 per cent grew crops or raised livestock.
Citizens’ assessment of government response showed high but a declining positive assessment of government performance in handling the pandemic from 2020, with 84 per cent of the respondents rating the responses from the Central Government as good or very good (compared to 97 per cent in 2020).
The approval rating for the response of provincial governments was slightly higher, with 89 per cent of the respondents rating the response as good or very good. Last year the rate was 94 per cent.
The survey also found that people showed strong support for strict containment measures and less support for closing open markets and schools.
On the accessibility and effectiveness of the Government’s VNĐ26 trillion cash aid package, the survey found that the proportion of people receiving the aid package was low.
The poor had less access than the wealthy.
Information about the aid package was not well provided for more disadvantaged people. Ethnic minorities, rural and poor people were less likely to know about the package than others.
For those who have received the cash aid, delivery was regarded as timely and informed, but administrative procedures to get access to the cash aid package was not simple.
In the meantime, electronic public administrative services were not utilised during the fourth wave. Many still had to submit COVID-19 test results to be admitted to healthcare facilities.
One of the key issues that the Việt Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index has pointed out over the past decade has been the suboptimal performance of public hospitals at the district level, which are an important element in the response to the public health crisis.
The survey also reflects citizens’ preferences and expectations. Despite significant economic impacts, most respondents prioritised health over the economy.
As many as 83 per cent of the respondents agreed that, “The government’s highest priority should be saving as many lives as possible, even if it means the economy will sustain more damage and recover slowly.”
The survey suggests that aid packages should target the poor, the unskilled and seasonal labourers, as well as those working in the service and tourism sectors.
Community-based support, as well from NGOs, social organisations, charity groups and individuals, should be appreciated and recognised formally. Simplifying administrative procedures will enable cash aid packages to be accessed quicker.
E-public services should be upgraded to be more user-friendly, allowing contactless interaction with the government.
Speaking at a launch of the survey findings, UNDP Resident Representative in Việt Nam Caitlin Wiesen said that the Vietnamese experience had demonstrated to the world that public trust and confidence underpin success in government responses.
“The year 2022 is coming with unforeseen challenges ahead of us because the pandemic is still with us and surging in many parts of the world. But with the fast and impressive delivery of COVID-19 vaccination in Việt Nam in recent months, together with citizens’ support for mask mandates and the Government’s agile responses, I believe that Việt Nam is well-positioned to overcome the pandemic challenges and to recover soon,” she said.
Cherie Russell, Development Counsellor, Australian Embassy in Việt Nam, said that through these survey results there was an important opportunity to hear the voices and experiences of Việt Nam’s citizens.
“This evidence then informs policy decisions and builds more trust within communities for the delivery of these policies,” she said. — VNS