The article said Vietnam has been loosening quarantine measures since late April. Patient 91, a 43-year-old British pilot, is on life support in a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, and saving him has become a national priority. His condition deteriorated to the point that he was left with only 10-percent lung capacity.
It stressed that Vietnam’s success was no accident. Its 1,450km border with China and frequent visitors from Wuhan, the site of the original outbreak in December and January, meant that Vietnam could have been overrun with cases. But it acted fast and did not wait for official warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO) before it closed its borders, locked down its economy and launched mass testing, tracing and quarantine measures.
Guy Thwaites, a professor of infectious diseases and Director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, said the country swung into action early because it was well aware of the dangers of unchecked infectious diseases. In the past 20 years, it has suffered from outbreaks of SARS, avian influenza, measles, dengue fever and hand-foot-and-mouth disease, which attacks young children.
“The Vietnamese are very respectful of the threat of infectious diseases and know they have to be treated early,” he said. “They were well prepared”.
A new academic report on Vietnam’s response to the pandemic, written by Prof. Thwaites and about 20 doctors and scientists, concluded that the early lockdown plus the extensive testing, contact tracing and mandatory quarantines for people who had come into contact with anyone who had tested positive were behind Vietnam’s success in preventing COVID-19 deaths. It said the tracing and quarantine measures were “especially effective given that nearly half of those infected did not develop symptoms.”
By the beginning of May, more than 200,000 people had been put into quarantine in government buildings, military camps, hotels or at home.
Thwaites said the tracing effort did not rely on sophisticated technology, but old-fashioned, shoe-leather epidemiology. Most of the country’s relatively few cases were travellers, including Vietnamese nationals, flying into the country.
He said he believes the low infection figures and lack of fatalities to be accurate, as he has access to official data and visits to local hospitals.