GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 394, 2 August 2020

Vietnam: The second wave
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

What happened?
After a gap of three months, Vietnam has declared a high-alert due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country. Till date, more than 30 cases reported including in its capital Hanoi and business capital Ho Chi Minh City. On 29 July, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Prime Minister, warned the country and stated that every city and province are at risk and warned that this "new" wave is stronger than the previous one. 

What is the background?
First, Vietnam has been revered globally as a success story. A centralized quarantine programme and an aggressive contact tracking system have been the reasons for success. During the first wave in February, Vietnam managed to keep its tally to total 450 cases, with zero fatality and none reported to be locally transmitted infections. This was commendable due to two reasons; one, Vietnam is a highly populated country with 95 million people. Second, although it shares a border with China, which has been the source country of the virus, it decided to take a risk and did not close the border unlike the rest of China's neighbours. 

Second, the eagerness to revive the economy could have backfired. Vietnam's enthusiasm and desperation to open were aided by its initial success and the need to sustain its economy. Vietnam, in June, started domestic travel, schools, and offices. Along with the opening of the job sector, the government to boost the slugging tourism industry encouraged discounts on travel and stay and also provided an incentive for people to travel. This explains the large crowd in Da Nang, a popular tourist destination of Vietnam. 

Third, Vietnam is not the only country, to start the process to return to normalcy. Several other countries, even with a growing number of cases, are compelled to do so due to the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy. This could be one of the reasons for the second wave in most of the countries around the globe. 

What does it mean?
As the source of the new transmission is yet to be discovered, there could be several more cases in the coming days. The current total tally does not include the 18,000 are to return to Ho Chi Minh from Da Nang. Additionally, the Vietnamese scientists have said this strain of the virus is more infectious than the previous one. The government is taking necessary measures such as banning large gatherings; nevertheless, as stated by the Chairman of the city administration, the country needs to "to act now and act fast." 

Although the government's quick economic recovery plan is one the primary reason for the second wave, it seems they are in denial. The wrath of the second wave is being faced by the immigrant labours working in the country. Instead of managing the tourist, the police in Da Nang and the rest of the country have been arresting illegal migrants and people suspected to be part of the human trafficking racket. This has a larger good as these rackets are to be curbed; however, this timing is not suitable. The illegal migrants in the country are desperate; additionally, the thriving construction works and packaging industry in Vietnam are also heavily dependent on them. Also, the government seems not to realize that unlike the previous time, when the virus was transmitted in the country through a traveller, this time it is a community transmission. Focusing only on the illegal migrants will not be helpful.