Vietnam Aces COVID-19 Control, Fights the Worst Floods in Decades, and What Makes the Headlines?

Condom recycling.

Originally published here:

Photo from VNExpress International

Yes the condom recycling ring, everyone knows about that and yes, I am guilty as charged of writing a parody about it, but did you know any of that other stuff?


Is the condom recycling ring likely to impact anyone outside of Vietnam? Nope. We all know it’s horrific, we all know it’s terrible, but why are people led to do things like that in the first place? Poverty, desperation.

So indulge me here, let me fill you in on some actual news from Vietnam as it would seem that no one wants to report this stuff, not with any conviction anyway.

We smashed COVID-19 here in Vietnam.

Destroyed it, knocked it out of the park.
Did you know that?

We were all closely following the infection count, watching the Facebook threads about that pesky pilot and supermodel accidentally infecting everyone.

We waited anxiously to find out how the government would deal with the situation; wondered what would happen to us, after all, we are immigrants living here in Vietnam and the situation was a little worrying.

One of the signs outside a bar from Business Insider. Screenshot of the document the government created to protect foreigners and rough translation.

The government was so concerned about the rise in racism generated by the panic of the pandemic that they created a document specifically. The idea was that if any foreigner experienced discriminatory behaviour they could show this statement and that it would not be tolerated.

As the number of infections started to rise the restrictions tightened.

We received regular text message updates from the government and health advisory telling us what was happening and what we should do.

Illustration by the author – A weekend spent creating artwork and distributing around the building along with hand sanitiser for our worried staff.
  • A city centre curfew was introduced.
  • Nightclubs, bars, restaurants, gyms, beauty salons, spas, and cinemas were mandated to close at 6 pm.
  • It was made compulsory to wear a mask in public.
  • Hand sanitizer appeared in the entrance to every store and public building along with temperature checks carried out by security staff.
  • It was advised to only leave the house for emergencies, groceries or to travel to and from work.
  • Several businesses and civilians handed out facemasks to those in need.

If someone in an apartment block was suspected the whole block was sealed off for 24 hours. The floor of the suspect was locked down until test results came back and if they tested positive, that floor would face a further two weeks quarantine which would be managed by the military.

Quarantine centres were opened to deal with the last travellers arriving from high-risk destinations or that had tested positive.

So that pesky supermodel I mentioned before ended up in a state quarantine facility in the middle of nowhere, a far cry from the luxury she is used to, and how did she deal with that?

Like an absolute pro, of course. Here is Chou Chou on Instagram when it happened, you’ll find it alongside the rest of the photos of her very glamorous life — no big deal.

Chou Chou in quarantine link here

When it became apparent that people were bringing the virus into the country, International travel was stopped completely, our borders were closed and domestic travel was dramatically reduced.

There was this hit song, over 60 million hits to be precise!

We had a two-week military enforced shut down for all non-essential businesses, they patrolled the streets and checked with companies to see if they were operational and how many staff were working in the building. After they completed some pretty extensive paperwork to confirm all of this, it was signed off and they would leave, possibly with a bit of extra cash in their pocket, but hey like I said this is not a wealthy country.

Where people could, or were allowed to, they continued to work from home.

Life went on pretty much as normal, people were sensible, they didn’t want to go outside, to risk their safety, people were and still are frightened.

The whole country united to fight against this because it’s what needed to be done. Vietnam is still a developing country, we do not have the infrastructure in place to be able to deal with what would happen if we had carried on as normal and bickered and squabbled about wearing masks or going to the pub.

There was even a Grab delivery advert made about ordering and paying for food safely, and it was lovely!

We do not have the NHS here, everyone has to pay for health care; a lot of people cannot afford insurance or the expense of hospital bills.

We ran out of nothing, no one panic bought anything.

We all still wear our masks in public, regularly sanitise our hands and I think it’s safe to safe to say we are keeping travel to a minimum.

We all knew how scared people were and how devastating this could be; as guests in this country, we respected that (for the most part) and did as we were told. There is something to be said for that — you only have to look at the numbers.

Vietnam has sustained one of the lowest COVID-19 rates in the world, as I write this we have had 1172 cases of which 1062 have recovered; we have lost 35 lives.

2020 possibly the most miserable and challenging years known to the world; Vietnam triumphs over COVID-19 only to be battered by multiple tropical storms and the worst flooding in 50 years.

‘The U.S. will provide Vietnam $100,000 in response to Storm Linfa battering the central coast’ the U.S. ambassador announced’ — VNexpress

Over 130 people are recorded dead and several are still missing.

Entire villages have been swept away, people have been buried alive in enormous mudslides, now we are bracing for the arrival of next and the biggest; Typhoon Molave, as I write this it just made landfall and the destruction has already begun. The government has made preparations to evacuate 1.3million people, a number I find it hard to even fathom.

But no one is phased by this, instead of panicking, people have banded together and raised money, collected food, medical supplies and made the arrangements (often independently) to safely transport the goods via an elaborate network of volunteers, charities, friends and families in convoy from one location to the next, sharing any surplus provisions with neighbouring villages.

It is absolutely astonishing how this system works, I have never experienced anything like it before, and it’s not just this disaster, it happens all the time. People are on permanent standby gathering things and storing them in their houses in preparation for when the next one should hit.

Perhaps they were raised in one of these villages and have family there, maybe they came from poverty and have managed to create a decent life for themselves; sometimes these people have so little yet they are prepared to give to those who need it more than them.

The people of Vietnam have been through a lot over the years.

For all the flaws and imperfections of this beautiful country, there is one thing that I have found to be quite unique and that is the absolute determination to support those less fortunate, to raise each other up.

No. It’s not communism, it’s much more than that.

It’s a sense of community, pride, warmth; some valuable commodities that seem to be amiss elsewhere in the world right now.

So forgive my frustration when the worlds media focus in on the most ridiculous and insignificant story, a story which makes a mockery of all that this country has achieved, how it has triumphed over the richest in the world in this fight against the pandemic, and how it will not be beaten by these endless devastating storms.

I understand all too well about clickbait, getting that engagement, that kneejerk reaction and yes, of course, the condom recycling bust was kind of funny and awful in equal measures, but it’s not representative of this country as a whole, it’s not a fair depiction.

Vietnam should be celebrated for what can be accomplished when people just care a bit more about each other, it should be used as an example of what can happen when people work together for the greater good.

So next time you’re about to embark on the facemask debate or complain about how you can’t go to the pub or how sick you are of social distancing, take a step back and think about all the reasons why those things are in place. How they are not there just for you, they are for the safety of everyone else. Think about that sense of community, pride, banding together to fight and refusing to back down.

If you are wondering what happens when everyone does actually do that, what that looks like on paper, just put into google ‘COVID-19 statistics for Vietnam’ and the results speak for themselves.

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