Assoc. Prof. Trần Đắc Phu — VNS Photo Ly Ly
Friday marked a milestone in Việt Nam’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has gone 50 days straight without a single case of COVID-19 community transmission. Việt Nam News speaks to Assoc. Prof. Trần Đắc Phu, a senior advisor at the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, on the secrets behind the country’s success and what to expect in the foreseeable future.
What are the secrets behind Việt Nam’s success in containing community transmission?
First, we had correct assessments and predictions on the danger and the contagiousness of the virus to take quick actions. We have devised an effective strategy, which I believe will remain appropriate for a long time. It involves five steps of prevention, detection, quarantine, isolation and stamping out.
We have made proactive and flexible plans to meet and adapt to the situation. We have made sure to limit the number of infections while providing intensive treatment to those positive cases to minimise the fatality rate. So far, no deaths have been recorded.
We have also achieved great public unity from all levels, sectors and the people. I have been working in epidemic prevention for many years, but I haven’t seen such a high level of public unity like this before.
On top of that, we have a good public healthcare system from grassroots to central levels. This has made it easy to implement the strategy of “Four on the spot” (human resources on the spot, command on the spot, required facilities on the spot and logistics on the spot) in terms of both pandemic prevention and treatment.
The public was also provided with detailed instructions to join in pandemic prevention and control. We also have to appreciate the efforts of the communication sector in spreading correct and timely information to citizens, involving them in the pandemic fighting efforts while not causing panic.
What is the likelihood of community transmission recurrence in Việt Nam?
We can feel secure for now about community transmission. But this does not guarantee there won’t be any new transmission cases if we do not implement drastic measures. Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam has said any sector can take a rest, but the health sector, police and military cannot. We have seen many positive cases from people returning from abroad. Some returned to the country through illegal trails in border areas. If we don’t continue to practise quarantine well, community transmission is very likely to reoccur. We can’t be complacent now. It is very important to detect imported positive cases and stamp out the virus right away to prevent it from spreading.
What is most important now to maintain the success?
It has been 50 days without any community transmission, so we can relax preventive measures to make it easier for people’s lives and businesses. But basic measures must still be in place, including wearing masks, cleaning hands with soap, practising social distancing when applicable, and health declarations. The Government has already provided detailed guidelines for all sectors and units.
The global situation is still complicated. We still need to tighten border control and quarantine those coming into the country. Recently, we have allowed foreign experts and highly skilled workers to come in. It is already a relaxation of the rules compared to before. The Ministry of Health is now assigned to find measures to ensure safety to receive foreigners coming in to promote trade activities and stay no longer than 14 days. Only when safety measures are in place can we allow them to come.
Which factors need to be considered to decide on reopening borders to foreigners?
This depends on many factors, including diplomatic, economic and trade ones. The Government is also assigning various sectors to develop concrete plans. We also need to keep a close watch on the situation in other countries. As for now, the pandemic developments are still very complicated, so as far as I know there are still no concrete plans of when and to what extent we would reopen the borders. — VNS