A blockade point in the “green zone” area in Kim Lien ward of Hanoi. The Vietnamese capital has been called an “open-air prison” by international media, while the Southeast Asian country is ranked lowest in the world in terms of recovery from the pandemic.
Vietnam, internationally praised for its successful handling of the pandemic for most of last year, is now ranked the lowest in the world by the international media in terms of its ability to recover from COVID while the capital, Hanoi considered an “open-air prison” in the fight against the epidemic.
Before the worst wave of infections broke out in Vietnam at the end of April, the Southeast Asian country was still considered by the world as a model in pandemic control with the lowest infection and death rates globally.
However, with an average of tens of thousands of infections and hundreds of deaths per day while having the lowest vaccination rates in the region, Vietnam is ranked last week by Nikkei Asia on the latest COVID-19 Index of Recovery which is released at the end of each month. The leading Japanese newspaper ranked Vietnam at the bottom of 121 countries in the world with the lowest total score, 25, including 3 indicators recorded from infection management, vaccination implementation and mobility until August 31. China is the most resilient country in the world, topping the table with a total score of 73.
In the bottom group are also Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines, Southeast Asian countries also struggling with a strong wave of infections of the Delta variant.
According to Nikkei Asia, Vietnam is now the embodiment of Southeast Asia in terms of “self satisfaction” in dealing with the pandemic after its internationally lauded successes. The Japanese English-language newspaper commented that the leaders of Vietnam – like in Thailand, Indonesia and other countries – believe that the successes in early containment of infections may continue to be repeated in the future when vaccination programs can be delayed.
“In 2020, we used the most ‘elite army groups’ to attack ‘several hundred F0 guerrillas’ and very soon triumphed over a long period of time, shaking our thighs in approval,” journalist Truong Huy San, also known as blogger O Sin Huy Duc, commented in a Facebook post that “this way of dealing with COVID” has made Vietnam 121/121th on the index of Vietnam.
However, Mr. Nguyen Nhu Phong, a resident in Hanoi, said that Nikkei’s assessment was a bit “excessively negative“.
“The epidemic situation in Vietnam is really complicated, the government has seen it all, but compared to neighboring countries, it is not a terrible thing,” Phong, now living in Ho Tay district told VOA when he said that Hanoi with a daily number of infections is a few dozen out of nearly 10 million people or even Ho Chi Minh City, which is the epicenter of the outbreak, with daily infections in the thousands people out of more than 10 million people, is still a “too small number” and does not deserve to be so underestimated.
Most of the total of nearly 551,000 infections and more than 13,700 deaths in Vietnam were recorded in the outbreak since April 27, despite the government’s implementation of many measures to limit the movement of people such as blocking the whole city for a long time, controlling the issuance of travel permits, dividing residential areas according to the degree of infection to follow the instructions given from Ba Dinh.
The New York Times of the US in early June said that Vietnam’s initial success in epidemic prevention was just “lucky” when it could not control the latest and worst outbreak of the disease. However, a spokesman for Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later denied this and said that Vietnam had “decisive decisions, strategies, drastic and creative direction from the central to local levels.”
Although Nikkei’s assessment is not objective, Phong acknowledged that those “drastic” measures are no longer highly effective and that Vietnam has had initial subjectivity in fighting the epidemic.
“(They) thought tracing and isolation could be prevented, but they probably didn’t think it was this dangerous (and) terrible at first,” said Mr. Phong. “Through the instructions of the government, it is clear that Vietnam has now absorbed the blow and is putting all its efforts to prevent it.”
The Vietnamese government over the past few months has released a number of directives and guidelines for implementing social distancing that many consider “overlapping.” The biggest concern now expressed by many people on social networks is that the issuance of road permits under the newly introduced Directive 20 applies to the three “red, yellow, and green” zones in Hanoi, where the implementation of Social distancing for more than 1 month despite low infection rate.
Commenting on these restrictions in the Vietnamese capital, French TV channel TV5 and a Belgian newspaper called Metro Time claim that Hanoi has been turned into an “open prison” because of the COVID pandemic.
A resident of Hanoi’s Old Quarter named Ho Thi Anh told Metro Time, a free newspaper in the city of Brussels, that her entire neighborhood is cordoned off with barriers and “it’s like a detention center.” And TV5 said that 8 million Hanoi residents have been “ordered to self-contain themselves” since the end of July to fight the pandemic, in which one of the Hanoi residents interviewed, named Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, said that “we don’t have freedom of movement” but said it was important to him to comply with government directives.
Journalist Huy San asked that until September 21, “Hanoi still has 5-7 dozen F0 every day like now, how long is the city planning to ‘lock up people‘.” This blogger suggested that the country’s leaders “should have a meeting at a higher level than Hanoi to decide on the plan” for the capital and wrote that “don’t let the world see the capital of a developing country as a guerilla base.”
Former Vietnam News Agency journalist, Luu Kha, shared his feelings on his personal Facebook page that “as a patriot, I feel really hurt and ashamed when Vietnam is ranked the world’s lowest by Nikkei Asia on fighting COVID and Hanoi was called an ‘open-air prison’ by a Belgian newspaper.” He also urged state leaders that “this is the time to face the truth and speak the truth.”