By Eric San Juan
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Oct 1 (efe-epa).- After the outbreak that at the end of July caused the first deaths from COVID-19 in Vietnam, the country seems to have eradicated the pandemic in its territory for the second time this year, in addition to getting its economy to keep growing in the midst of a global recession.
After 29 days without community infections, life in Vietnam has returned to normal: restaurants and bars fill up, children go to school, traffic returns to its usual chaos and only the use of masks and disinfectant gel, as well as the partial closure of the borders, recall the nightmare of the pandemic.
It did not seem possible at the end of July, when the detection of a first community contagion in 99 days was followed by dozens in the following days and the first deaths from the disease occurred, depriving the country of the immaculate zero-death statistic that it had seen for six months.
The epicenter was the coastal city of Danang, where the entry of the virus into several hospitals with patients affected by other diseases caused havoc and caused much of the 35 deaths recorded so far across the country since the start of the pandemic.
With the borders officially closed since the end of March, it is still a mystery how the virus returned to Vietnam, although arrests of illegal immigrants in the days following the first contagion and calls from authorities to control border crossings suggest that this was the most plausible hypothesis.
After a confusing first few days, with the evacuation of thousands of tourists from Danang, the formula used by the communist regime in Hanoi was similar to that of months ago: closure of risk areas – the entire city of Danang was isolated – tracking Comprehensive of all positive contacts, thousands of PCR tests and selective quarantines.
In the second week of August, the constant trickle of new cases and deaths began to slow down and within a month they managed to eliminate community infections – there are still new cases of Vietnamese returnees – and restrictions began to be relaxed.
Unlike the first wave, when national social distancing was imposed, schools were closed for more than three months and leisure establishments in urban centers were closed, the authorities avoided taking indiscriminate measures.
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where there were several infections linked to the Danang outbreak, the activity of companies was barely slowed to damage the economic recovery that began in the previous weeks as little as possible.
The efforts seem to have paid off: in the midst of a global recession, Vietnam announced this week that its economy had grown 2.6 percent in the third quarter thanks to increased exports to China and the United States and public investment in infrastructures, the highest in the last five years.
The economist Phung Duc Thung, director of the Mekong Research Institute, adds to these factors indicated by the National Statistics Office the strength of the agricultural sector, which has not been so affected by the pandemic and has even benefited in some products , like rice, whose price has increased.
“In addition, the industry sector is also in good shape, it can be seen in the increase in exports of electronic products, especially laptops, whose demand has skyrocketed,” he told EFE.
Thung, like other experts, foresees even higher growth in the last quarter of the year thanks to continued government spending on infrastructure, direct investment from China in the country. This has increased the price of industrial land in recent months and the usual increase in household spending at the end of the year.
Tourism, which accounts for 9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and has suffered a 70 percent drop in the number of foreign visitors due to the closure of borders since March, also presents promising prospects in the coming months thanks to the push from domestic travelers.
However, these macroeconomic data does not reflect the drama of the millions of Vietnamese who have been unemployed in recent months or have suffered a considerable reduction in their income.
A government survey in July showed that 30.8 million Vietnamese over the age of 15 had lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts.
The various aid packages launched by the government have relieved the burden on these victims of the crisis, but some of the most needy, who work in the informal economy (about 30 percent of the country’s GDP), have not been able to access them.
“There are not many people who receive this government aid because the application procedure is very complicated and difficult to manage by local authorities. Now the Ministry of Labor has proposed to simplify it, I hope that these workers can receive government aid in the last quarter, “says Thung. EFE-EPA