Why Vietnam doesn't need any social distancing

  • Video report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

Social distancing isn’t needed in Vietnam thanks to rigorous contact tracing.

While other countries in the region debated and dithered about lockdowns, Vietnam shut its borders and introduced a system to find anyone potentially infected.

Schools were closed along with other educational institutions in early February, when the first infections of the virus were reported in the country.

The congested streets and markets in the country would ordinarily make for an ideal breeding ground for the coronavirus.

But with a weak healthcare system and developing economy, the government made sure it had a strategy in place to deal with a potential pandemic.

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The SARS outbreak in 2002 prompted investment in measures to protect people and prepare for a health emergency.

Initially contact tracing was done by teams of community trackers but an App was quickly developed to trace not only primary contacts, but secondary, third and fourth level too.

There is confidence in the county’s approach, one local said: “I think if we take it lightly, it will come back, but for our country, the government has effective methods so it can't come back.”

With the country claiming to have had fewer than 300 confirmed cases – with no new infections in the past three weeks - and no reported deaths, it appears the preparations have paid off.

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Hai Tran, of Bkav Electronics, said: “The more users, the more effective the App is.

“The app works like community immunity, powered by technology. It means when the App is popular in the community we have a calculation, about 60% of total population install that app.

“It will help protect all the community because every contact will be record into the data of the community.”

That’s not to say Vietnam is completely back to normal, with some precautions still in place.

For example, schools require masks and thermal scanning of all teachers and students.

There are still precautions in place in Vietnam. Credit: AP

The UK government and the NHS's digital department, NHSX, are in the process of developing an app that would tell you if you've recently been close to someone who might have had coronavirus.

Trials will be run in the Isle of Wight from Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, ahead of a potential nationwide roll out if tests prove successful.

At least half the population must use the app if it is to work, he added.