It is undeniable that the Coronavirus pandemic has posed huge pressure on the healthcare system in many countries, especially in virus-hit areas namely Lombardy and New York. The Vietnamese healthcare system is not an exception. Since the outbreak spreads quickly to many countries, Vietnam also witnesses the increasing number of infected patients during March. However, despite the limited resources, it is fair to say that our country is doing very well. The article will help you gain insights into the healthcare system in Vietnam during the pandemic.
The healthcare system in Vietnam is under pressure
The healthcare system in Vietnam is under pressure because of the surge of sales of face masks, fake news on social media and the considerable increase in the number of Coronavirus-infected patients.
The sharp rise in the demand for face masks
Since the very first day of the first Coronavirus-infected patient in Vietnam in January 2020, face masks had sold out very quickly on shelves in many pharmaceutical shops. People were afraid of the new deadly acute pneumonia which spread in Vietnam. Supermarkets and convenience stores that opened during the Lunar Tet holiday had seen the unusual increase in face mask or antibacterial masks. Then after just two weeks, Hanoi pharmacies ran out of masks and dry hand sanitizers.
Not surprisingly, as the demand surge, the price for such items increased sharply as well. Local pharmacies hiked the price of masks 2.5 times, even 4 times, around 17,000 VND – 100,000 VND ($4,3) per face mask, depending on the quality of materials. Worse, hundreds of residents rushed, were out of line to buy face masks at pharmacies in Thanh Xuan District on 31 Jan, and the situation at these pharmacies was totally out of control.
However, the Ministry of Health (MOH) requested immediately that all pharmacies had not to increase prices, if breaking the rules, they would be terminated the certificate (which allows pharmacies to sell medical products) and pay a monetary fine from 5 million VND to 10 million VND.
Fake news on social media
Fake news on social media also affected negatively on the awareness of residents and the healthcare system. On 6 March, when the patient number 17 got a positive test with Sars-COVID-2 (the first infected patient in Hanoi), a lot of fake news were shared in a blink-of-eye speed to many thousands of people, which spurred the fear of Hanoians in just one night. Then on the next day, Hanoians flocked to supermarkets and local markets to stock foods, hygiene, and healthcare products as one fake news wrongly reported that the capital would lockdown like in Wuhan city. One more time, fear spurred and demand increased suddenly. Immediately, the government issued a denial to all fake news on social media and encouraged people to follow the news on official channels reported by VTV (the national television broadcast of Vietnam) or prestigious newspapers.
The considerable growth in the number of patients on March
There are three phases in combating with Coronavirus in Vietnam. The first phase is the first 16 Coronavirus-infected cases. These 16 patients were those returning from the virus-hit region – Wuhan province. And all 16 cases were recovered.
After 20 days of no Coronavirus cases, Vietnam turned to the second phase due to the first infected patient in Hanoi. The second phase recorded the increasing number of infected people who were Western travelers and returned from European countries. Several days of March witnessed continuously new confirmed cases, up to 6 to 16 cases. However, these cases were isolated immediately when they checked in at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat airport, hence the possibility of spreading to the community was limited.
Currently, Vietnam is on the third phase of fighting against the pandemic because there are signs of spreading to the community when Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city confirmed “hot spots” including Bach Mai Hospital (Hanoi), Buddha Bar (HCM) and recently Ha Loi village (Hanoi).
How do the MOH and the government cope with the pandemic?
The MOH cooperates with the Ministry of Industry and Trade to boost the production of face masks to ensure the capability of mask supply. The deputy minister also instructed textile and garment enterprises to focus on producing masks from antibacterial fabrics which are washable and reusable but still meet the high quality. Additionally, Hanoi police officers distributed 75,000 face masks for free in many public spaces.
In terms of eliminating fake news on social media, the Vietnamese government has just brought in fine for fake news spreaders. According to the decree, a fine of 10 million – 20 million ($426 – $853) is imposed for those using social media to share false, untruthful, distorted and slanderous information. This cybersecurity law is not just for Coronavirus-related news, but far beyond, the rule is applied for all kind of news shared on social media.
In order to cope with the increasing number of infected patients, the MOH and the government have responded quickly and not taken the situation easy, hence fairly speaking, Vietnam is doing very well in the fight against the COVID-19. In the middle of March and in the event of many Vietnamese expats, oversea students returning home, which may bring the risks of infecting the virus, the Vietnamese government decided not to accept visas temporarily for foreigners to Vietnam in 30 days. Those coming from European countries and America, after checking in at the airport, were gathered to quarantine at isolation areas. This method helps to reduce the possibility of spreading to the community as patients would have symptoms after 14 days. Then two days later, Vietnam Airline (the national airline of Vietnam) also announced not to offer international flights until 30 April.
Besides, to get rid of the risk of communal infection, Chairman of Hanoi requested to quarantine Bach Mai Hospital and implemented tests for all doctors, employees, and patients who were currently being treated. The hospital refused to treat new cases and only accept severe cases that were moved from the local clinic. On 1 April, the national isolation in at least 14 days became effective to minimize potential threats, hence all restaurants, bars, book stores had to close temporarily, apart from pharmacies and supermarkets.
Furthermore, the MOH also cooperates with Vietnamese singers to produce songs that inspires residents to wash hands carefully, wear masks in public places and encourage people to stay at home during the social distancing. A typical example is the song “Ghen Cô Vy” by Erik and Min. This song is broadcasted on television channels in the US and posted on Facebook of the United Nation. The dance of this song created by dancer Quang Dang also becomes a hot trend in Tiktok and Instagram.
Achievements of the Vietnamese healthcare system in combating with COVID-19
On 5 March, we were proud of announcing that Vietnam had successfully created a test kit to detect Coronavirus-infected cases. The test kit assists in testing 10,000 cases per day. Invented by Vietnam Military Medical Academy, the test kit ensures the quickness, the repetition, and the high accuracy. With the biggest achievement in medical this year, Vietnam is able to export the test kit for Coronavirus with the result in 2 hours. From 17 to 20 March, Vietnam exported the first package including 50 kits (2,500 tests) to Ukraine and 100 kits (5,000 tests) to Finland.
In addition, despite the shortage of medical equipment, Vietnam now enables to export high-quality antibacterial face masks, protection garments to countries struggling to supply essential items to people and medical staff. Recently, Dupont Vietnam has just given 450 thousand protection garments to the United State. May 10, a textile company, shared that Vietnam had an order of producing 400 million face masks. This can be a positive sign for the Vietnamese healthcare system and it is essential for us to keep moving forward and bring more achievements to the medicine. Besides, Vingroups claimed to provide the MOH with 5,000 non-invasive ventilators as COVID-19 infection rose.
In conclusion, the Coronavirus pandemic put pressure on the healthcare system in many countries generally and in Vietnam particularly. The pandemic is a challenge for us but, proudly saying, Vietnam is doing a good job that following a proverb “prevention is better than cure”. The MOH responded very well from the very outset and it is vital to stay alert in case there is an unexpected condition. Vietnam also gained a significant achievement in inventing the test kit and exported the kit to countries that need to be supported. Above all, persistence and determination will help us win the invisible enemy.