Yesterday (31 March), Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued a directive announcing the start of a 15-day nationwide social distancing campaign to slow the transmission of COVID-19 in Vietnam. It comes into effect today, April 1st.
What does aggressive social distancing mean?
Under aggressive social distancing, people are required to maintain a distance of at least two meters from others at all times. In most countries, this is one step before a loose form of lockdown or a total lockdown is implemented.
The announcement means that only businesses providing essential services will remain open, such as supermarkets and convenience stores, hospitals and pharmacies, gas stations, and banks. Public transport services will be reduced to providing transportation for certain workers only.
Companies are required to allow their employees to work from home, except when physical presence is necessary, such as signing confidential documents, for example.
People should only leave home for emergencies, such as:
- To purchase food and medicine;
- Medical emergencies;
- Working in factories, production facilities and businesses that involve trade in essential goods and services.
Vietnam has also closed the borders and suspended most of its immigration administration services.
How many people are currently living under social distancing recommendations?
Globally, approximately 2 billion people are under aggressive social distancing, equal to 20% of the world population. 1 in 5 people are required to stay home 24/7.
Which countries have implemented aggressive social distancing?
There are at least 30 countries who have opted for aggressive social distancing, and in some cases for nationwide lockdowns, including India, UK, Australia, China, Jordan, Argentina, Israel, Malaysia, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Morocco, Kenya, Spain, Ireland, Norway and Denmark.
Why is aggressive social distancing necessary?
Nationwide social distancing is the highest level of social distancing. This is a highly effective strategy that slows the spread of the virus by dramatically limiting face-to-face contact. Also known as “flattening the curve”, the strategy aims to avoid overloading hospitals.
To put things into perspective, it took 67 days for the coronavirus to hit the mark of 100,000 cases worldwide, but only four days to jump from 100,000 to 200,000 cases.
Before the announcement of the nationwide social distancing campaign, even as the number of cases was increasing exponentially, many individuals still went about their lives with no idea that they could be infecting thousands of people. Many businesses remained open.
What are the consequences of aggressive social distancing and lockdown?
Aggressive social distancing and lockdown measures are effective solutions preventing the spread of the virus, but they have a serious negative effect on the economy.
Several experts have warned of a looming global economic crisis. Shutting down the economy is a hard choice to make, for any country, but the Government of Vietnam made it clear that people’s lives and health are the leaders’ first priority.
How long will aggressive social distancing remain in place?
As in most countries, Vietnam’s first social distancing campaign will last 14 days, after which the Government will consider whether to extend it. However, in most countries who have already implemented aggressive social distancing, the initial 14-day period was later extended and, in some cases, escalated to a lockdown.
Hubei (China), where the first cases of COVID-19 were detected, has been under lockdown from 23 January — more than two months. After the initial 12-day lockdown, the number of positive cases began to decrease, yet the province remained in lockdown.
What should you do if your country has implemented aggressive social distancing?
The directive is usually issued 24 – 48 hours before it comes into effect. Wherever in the world you are, there are several things you could do to prepare:
- Have enough food and medicine to last you 7-14 days. There is no need to stockpile supplies, however, as supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open. To save time, have a shopping list ready before heading to the shops.
- Keep yourself up to date with news and directives issued by the Ministry of Health and the Government.
- Stay in touch with the outside world by phone and internet. Notify your relatives where you will be staying and remain in touch with your family.
- Ensure your water and electricity bills are paid to avoid power or water cuts.
- Consider working from home and talk with your manager about telecommuting options.
- Keep your place tidy. You will be staying home for several weeks, so you want to make it as comfortable as possible.
Adapted by Dao Nguyen.