So far, Vietnam has had one of the best responses to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Sharing a border with the most affected country of the outbreak has meant Vietnam has had to introduce strict measures as a precaution.
How has Vietnam managed the coronavirus? By introducing rules affecting the use of masks, and social media updates.
They’ve mostly worked, but as the western world begins to suffer, the country has had to introduce further restrictions. These have come across as harsh, but have also involved clear communication with the public.
This has been in direct contrast to China which has taken a more authoritarian approach to deal with the virus. The lack of information there has been characterised as a breach of human rights.
Vietnam, on the other hand, has been quick to provide information regarding safety precautions using social media. Facebook and Zalo have been used to keep the people constantly up-to-date with the total cases, as well as the effect of the virus on other parts of the world.
It’s also employed new strategies to encourage practices that could reduce the spread of the virus. With the help of a popular V-pop star, the Health Ministry has even created a viral instructional video, disguised as a music video, on washing hands thoroughly. It’s one of the many ways the government has embraced every available tool to fight against the pandemic.
This proactive approach extends to the way it preemptively closed down schools. This was initially criticised for being an overreaction, though it seems that the rest of the world is following suit.
Visas and Work permits
Although the country has been effective in curbing the spread of the virus, it has implemented confusing strategies. This has caused uncertainty for travellers and its expat community.
Visas on arrival have been put on pause until further notice. Previously, this affected anyone entering the country who had been to the UK or any of the Schengen countries until April 14th. This was a response to the recent increase in the number of cases that resulted from a London to Hanoi flight, as well as Europe quickly becoming the most affected continent.
Airports may grant entry to those conducting business under special circumstances. However, rejection on arrival or forced quarantine may still occur. Due to this, most governments discourage travel to Vietnam.
For those staying in Vietnam long term on a tourist visa, a clampdown on border runs may cause an issue. If you want to extend your visa, the only option available is to pay a visa agent to extend your visa. This is costing some people approximately 300-400 USD.
Reducing public gatherings
The virus can spread rapidly given the right environment. Governments around the world have cancelled conferences and public events in an attempt to reduce the public’s exposure, and Vietnam is no exception. The Vietnamese government have banned gatherings of 20 or more people. This affects a variety of different public spaces.
Bars, restaurants ( with 30+ seats), cinemas, and other businesses have received orders to close in HCMC. However, food stores, pharmacies, and medical service centres will not be affected. These changes will be temporary and will last for two weeks starting from the 26th of March.
Foreigners are being subject to discrimination as a result of the outbreak. Locals hold them responsible for the spread of the virus, despite the thorough medical checks on arrival. Even worse so, they are being kept in mandatory quarantine if COVID had spread to their flights place of origin. This has made it difficult for travelers to find a place to stay, reporting that some hostels and Airbnbs have rejected them. Some foreigners have even been refused entry to restaurants, and even verbally abused in public spaces.
The government has responded by introducing anti-discrimination laws that should protect foreigners. It is now illegal to treat foreigners differently in this challenging time, and continuing to do so may incur fines. Though some Airbnb and hotel owners have decided to close to avoid the risk of accepting someone who has been infected.
Further rules have come into effect. As of the 16th of March, the mandatory use of face masks in public spaces such as supermarkets, airports and bus stations has been introduced. Any mask will do, so you won’t need to get one that is certified (though take a look at our guide on must-haves for some recommendations). Anyone who is unable to adhere to these new rules might be subject to a fine or even criminal prosecution.
Filling in a health check form when entering Vietnam has been common practice for a long time. However, mandatory health checks now require local residents and long term expats to fill in their details.
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Vietnam stands as one of the least affected countries by the coronavirus. It’s handling of the coronavirus has been effective, though the new rules have been difficult for foreigners to follow. Given the lower cases compared to most countries, it is more deserving of praise than criticism. It’s a response that will perhaps serve as a template for dealing with future outbreaks in the future.