04/18/2020, 08.00
VIETNAM
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Hanoi winning the fight against coronavirus

Vietnam has only 268 COVID-19 cases and no deaths. The secret of its success lies in the speed of intervention. Like China’s, Vietnam’s communist regime has used its vast surveillance system. The country's economy is among the few that will grow in 2020. Multinationals are leaving China.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Vietnam is winning the war against the COVID-19 virus. So far, it has 268 confirmed cases with no deaths. According to experts, its secret lies in the speed of its intervention.

On 1 February, the authorities suspended air links with China and shut down all schools and universities. Then they quarantined Vĩnh Phúc province, home to many migrants who worked in Wuhan (Hubei), the epicentre of the pandemic. They also imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving in the country from a risk area.

Unlike South Korea and Taiwan, two other successful examples of the fight against coronavirus, Vietnam is not in a position to carry out mass testing since its healthcare system is not well developed. For instance, Deutsche Welle reports that Ho Chi Minh City (ex Saigon), a metropolis of eight million inhabitants, has only 900 intensive care beds.

Its approach is closer to China’s draconian method, with the Communist Party controlling the whole decision-making process and implementing the measures military style.

To this end, the regime relies on an extensive surveillance system to contain the pandemic, imposing severe penalties on offenders. However, as with its Chinese neighbour, Vietnam’s data need to be viewed with some caution.

Vietnam has one of the most dynamic economies in the world. According to the World Economic Forum, 45 million Vietnamese came out of poverty between 2002 and 2018. Per capita GDP is 2,500 dollars; life expectancy went from 71 years in 1990 to 76 in 2015. It has eight doctors per 10,000 people.

Although the pandemic has hit the economy hard, especially the tourism sector hard; the country appears to have absorbed the recessionary effects of the crisis better than many others.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that its GDP will grow 7 per cent in 2021, but this year, it will be limited to 2.7 per cent, a sharp drop over 2019 (7,02 per cent), but the best result in the region. By comparison, Philippines and Indonesia are expected to grow by 0.6 and 0.5 per cent respectively; Malaysia and Thailand are in a recession.

Much of Vietnam's future success will depend on the "great escape" from China. Thanks to the incentives of their governments, some US, Japanese, South Korean and European companies are moving production from mainland China to other countries that offer a cheaper labour force.

Among these, Vietnam appears to be the best placed to welcome companies leaving China. China Briefing notes that this process had already started 15 years ago. It then took greater importance with the onset of the trade war between China and the United States.

Samsung for example has moved part of its operations to Vietnam; Google and Nintendo have started doing the same, like many other large multinationals.

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