Leaving behind both successful and painful experiences during the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, Vietnam needs to confidently move forward with the lessons of the past and with aspirations for a safer and more prosperous future.
In 2021, there were many painful and unforgettable moments. One of them was August 29, a turning point in anti-pandemic thinking in Vietnam.
On that day, when chairing an anti-epidemic meeting with leaders of 20 provinces and cities, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh mentioned the message of living with and adapting to the pandemic.
However, the message “must live long” with the virus had actually been mentioned a year earlier.
|Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh chaired a Government meeting on the afternoon of the 3rd day of the Lunar New Year 2022. Photo: VGP|
On August 14, 2020, the National Steering Committee for Epidemic Prevention and Control of the previous Government discussed the situation and assessed: “Maybe from now on we will have no more peaceful times like before. It is impossible to ensure zero covid in the whole country because the risk of disease is in all localities. Today, Covid-19 may break out in one province, tomorrow it may appear in another.”
The Committee emphasized the view that it would last a long time. “We can only win against Covid-19 when there is a specific drug or a specific vaccine.”
Unfortunately, that message was never included in the anti-Covid policy perhaps because the approach was Zero Covid at the time.
But with the Delta variant, things changed. The variant caused great damage to livelihoods and production because when positive cases were detected, entire factories, markets, villages, districts and provinces had to isolate. But in the end the virus still broke out or smoldered.
Separating infected people from the community caused fear and risk of disease spreading, especially in concentrated quarantine centers. In terms of health, a zero Covid policy caused resources to focus too much on prevention instead of treatment.
Great efforts and a lot of money were poured into tracing positive cases and their contacts as well as operating quarantine centers and covid treatment facilities where more than 80% of patients had no symptoms or mild symptoms.
The treatment stage with ventilators, medicines, hospital beds and vaccines would have improved if resources had been shared from the preventive stage to care for the smaller number of severely ill patients.
It was not until September 23, 2021 that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, the Head of the National Steering Committee for Epidemic Prevention and Control, stated that “when the situation changes, the mission changes, organization changes, implementation, leadership, direction must also change. Reaching ‘Zero Covid’ will be a very difficult thing because even in developed countries where vaccination rates reach 90% of the population, it is also impossible. We are developing guidelines for safe, flexible adaptation and effective control of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Resolution 128 said: “Many countries have changed their disease response strategies from trying to completely extinguish the disease to living safely with the epidemic”. So Vietnam changed its strategy to “safely adapt, flexibly, and effectively control the Covid-19 epidemic”.
Another memorable moment was August 13, 2021, when the Government’s working group on vaccine diplomacy was established. At that time, Vietnam had only 300,000 doses of vaccine. In October 2021, Vietnam had 42 million doses and until recently it had nearly 210 million doses.
From being ranked 121 out of 121 countries and territories on the Nikkei Covid-19 Recovery Index for two consecutive months, Vietnam gradually rose to higher levels, both in terms of medical treatment and economic recovery.
In the past two years, countries that vaccinated early reopened sooner.
The recovery depends heavily on vaccination rates and the government’s ability to support the economy to overcome a prolonged crisis. According to the World Bank, Vietnam’s three main trading partners – the United States, the EU and China – are expected to have growth rates of 5.6%, 5.2% and 8%, respectively, in 2021. Shouldn’t this be 2022?
Vietnam’s GDP growth in 2021 was estimated at 2.58%, 4.2 percentage points lower than the World Bank’s forecast in December 2020, while Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia all had higher growth rates than Vietnam.
Every time the door is opened, people, businesses and the State will be active again, bringing a breath of optimism. There are a few macro figures to show this: the economic growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2021 reached a record of 22% year on year, a very high increase compared to the negative 6% in the previous quarter, when nearly one-third of the country was under lockdown.
Vietnam’s GDP growth rate in the past two years was the lowest in 30 years. To achieve the targeted growth rate of 6.5% in the next five years, the average annual growth of the remaining four years must be more than 7.5%.
However, if there is a desire for a prosperous change, this goal can be fulfilled. Vietnam is in the period of “golden population”, with the percentage of people of working age to reach the highest level of about 65% in the 2015-2025 period.
According to the World Bank, 70% of Vietnamese people are economically secure. Up to 13% of Vietnamese have advanced to the middle class by world standards. This class is growing rapidly. Since 2014, an average of 1.5 million Vietnamese people entered the global middle class each year.
All of these factors and many more show that, despite the tragic pandemic, the overall development trend is still promising.
While the future holds many uncertainties, there is one thing we can be sure of: the old mindsets, the old model and the old organizational order won’t help us survive in a completely different world.
More than ever, this is the time when we need to shape new thinking about the mission and development strategy of each individual and organization, as well as constantly seek and experiment with creative solutions to create a better and more humane future for everyone.
That is a lesson to be learned for both disease prevention and economic development of each individual and the country in general.
Since the day Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh became the Head of the Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, there have been some fundamental changes made in the long march to fight the pandemic.
The current challenges are unprecedented and Vietnamese people need to share the same mindset to overcome them, according to Nguyen Dinh Cung, an economist.