Vietnam Halted Its COVID-19 Outbreak. Now Comes the Economic Fallout

Vietnam Halted Its COVID-19 Outbreak. Now Comes the Economic Fallout
A motorcyclist drives past a poster calling on people to take care of their health amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 14, 2020 (AP photo by Hau Dinh).

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam—As countries around the world debate how quickly they should reopen their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic, Vietnam is largely ahead of the curve.

A national social distancing campaign that shut down non-essential businesses ended on April 22, and life has returned to a striking normalcy. Restaurants, bars, cinemas, barbers and other shops have reopened, though karaoke parlors and nightclubs are still closed. Sporting events and festivals are now allowed to resume as well, with the country’s top soccer league scheduled to hit the pitch next month. Domestic tourism is slowly picking up, as authorities ease social distancing regulations on planes, trains and buses, and airlines and hotels are desperately trying to regain business. Schools nationwide have resumed in-person classes after being closed since the Lunar New Year holiday in early February.

All of this is possible thanks to a number of proactive, aggressive steps that Vietnam’s government took shortly after the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China. On Jan. 23, the Ministry of Health announced the country’s first two cases of COVID-19: a Chinese father and son who were visiting Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest urban area and its economic hub. That same day, the government cancelled all pending flights between Vietnam and Wuhan, and a week later, it suspended air travel to and from mainland China. The land border was also closed to travelers.

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