Image: Emblem of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Wikipedia)
The crowds of people massing up to return to work in manila only but force us to think of the possibility of a new wave of infections such as those that took place in other asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and recently parts of China including Hongkong and Singapore, which now leads Southeast Asia's infections at more than 20,000.
On country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam however, stands out. Acclaimed by western media as a coronavirus success story that they say has "quashed the curve" due to the low number of coronavirus cases when compared to its population, the reality is that it contrary to the claims it initiated "mass testing", Vietnam has tested less than 1% of their 95 million population, or 261,000 tests according to US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies citing Johns Hopkins University data. (https://www.csis.org/programs/southeast-asia-program/southeast-asia-covid-19-tracker-0).
Incidentally, The same CSIS website lists the Philippines as nearing the 200,000 tests, surpassing Malaysia and Thailand's own testing efforts as of May 18.
The silver lining in the Vietnam case is that while they did not do the "mass testing" they did intensive contact tracing even to the point o publicly disclosing the names and identities of the 300 or so infected persons to encourage the people who may have had contact with them to come forward and get tested, according to an articile in the European publication the Guardian:
"It publishes a detailed travel history of every new patient on social media and in local newspapers in order to seek people who have been in close contact with them. To increase vigilance, the government has also released a mobile app for people to alert the authority about suspected infections in their area. For all people entering the country, a health declaration is now compulsory, with criminal penalties for false declarations."
Some would claim these measures are intrusive and would doubt their effectiveness if implemented elsewhere. This may be true. Vietnam is a one-party state with decades of experience in mobilising its population through wars, Sars and swine flu outbreaks. "
The similar hiring of contact tracers tracers something the Philippine government aims to emulate as it launched a 3,000 a day tsting center in Pampanga funded by the Asian Development Bank, and will see more than 17 new centers getting into operation soon in many regions of the country.
The Vietnamese solution, as some have put it, is premised on its ability to do contract rcing and public disclosure of patient identities, as it can legally intrude into the private lives of its citizens, since it is a one party state.
As testing and tracing capacities are set to increase, should the the Philippines, and indeed the rest of asia follow the Vietnamese example of contact tracing with public disclosure of patient identities to curb the COVID -19 spread?