Viet Nam is facing its greatest public health challenge yet since the global pandemic began. As of this writing, the country logged 81,328 active cases of COVID-19. Keep in mind that there were fewer than 200 active cases in April. The total number of deaths stands at 499, which is expected to increase considerably in the coming weeks. As explained below and to put things in perspective, most of the new cases are in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and vicinity, as are the deaths (361 or 72.34%).
Delta Variant as Game Changer
This excerpt from a 3 July 2020 article The 3 Simple Rules That Underscore the Danger of Delta that appeared in The Atlantic articulates what many of us already knew: Many nations that excelled at protecting their citizens are now facing a triple threat: They controlled COVID-19 so well that they have little natural immunity; they don’t have access to vaccines; and they’re besieged by Delta. At the start of this year, Vietnam had recorded just 1,500 COVID-19 cases—fewer than many individual American prisons. But it is now facing a huge Delta-induced surge when just 0.19 percent of its people have been fully vaccinated. If even Vietnam, which so steadfastly held the line against COVID-19, is now buckling under the weight of Delta, ‘it’s a sign that the world may not have that much time,’ Dylan Morris, an evolutionary biologist at UCLA, told me.
In other words, while the government and most citizens and expats did a stellar job of containing COVID-19 since Day One (23 January 2020), which enabled life to go with some semblance of normality, the clock was always ticking. Viet Nam had to obtain enough vaccine to begin vaccinating people en masse, which proved to be a tall order. The original COVID-19 virus wasn’t going away and in fact has mutated into more dangerous strains. The lack of supply combined with the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant are two of the factors that have resulted in a record number of infections with a linear scale that currently points straight up.
As WedMD points out, this strain has mutations on the spike protein that make it easier for it to infect human cells, which means the people may be more contagious and spread it to others more easily.
Another factor, over which Viet Nam has limited control, are the long and porous borders with Cambodia (1158 km) and Laos (2161 km), both of which are facing their own COVID-19 crisis. (I could mention China but COVID is under control there.) That’s a total of 3319 km (2062 miles) over which people can illegally go back and forth for work, visits, and smuggling.
That probably explains why HCMC, which is about 300 km (186 miles) from the Cambodian border, has 61,858 out of the nationwide total of 81,328 cases, according to the Viet Nam Ministry of Health, or 76% of the nationwide total. The nation’s capital of Hanoi, which is currently under lockdown, has only 1210 confirmed cases, 1.49% of the total. Note the increase in local transmission cases since the morning of 21 July 2021 in the infographic below.
COVID-19 Vaccinations in Vietnam
Vaccinations started on 8 March 2021. The following vaccines have been approved for use: Janssen, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxrod-AstraZeneca, Sinopharm (emergency use), and Sputnik V. The goal is to vaccinate 80% of the population of 98+ million by June 2022. As of 24 July 2021, 4.5 million vaccine doses have been administered.
Here are some 2021 and 2020 articles about COVID-19 in Viet Nam, including some I wrote commending the country’s successful efforts to contain the pandemic. The best sources of up-to-date information are the Ministry of Health website (in Vietnamese), linked above, and the COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam Wikipedia entry (in English), linked below.
Vietnam locks down capital Hanoi as COVID-19 infections soar (24.7.21) Note: The title is a bit misleading. Over three-quarters of all community infections are in HCMC. The lockdown is a precaution intended to prevent the spread of the virus.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, do as the Vietnamese do (21.3.20) This essay was republished the same day by the National Academy of Public Administration (Học viện Hành chính Quốc gia) and on 25 March 2020 by CounterPunch.
COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam (Wikipedia) An excellent and fairly up-to-date overview of all things COVID-19 in Viet Nam. There is usually a lag time from when the Ministry of Health posts the latest statistics to when this page does the same.
COVID-19 vaccination in Vietnam (Wikipedia) Up-to-date information about the status of the nationwide vaccination program.
Shalom (שלום), MAA