As countries around the world grapple with the challenges of containing COVID-19, Vietnam has emerged as a frontrunner in providing supplies and assistance to other countries. On April 8, Vietnam sent 450,000 protective suits to Dallas, Texas, for use by frontline healthcare professionals in the United States.
President Trump praised “our friends in Vietnam” for providing the necessary supplies. A total of 4.5 million pieces of equipment will be shipped within the month. The partnership between manufacturer DuPont in northern Hai Phong province and shipping company FedEx enabled the transfer of supplies to the US Strategic National Stockpile. The US Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with states, territories, and other localities, will ensure the suits arrive to the healthcare facilities and workers most in need. Ambassador to Vietnam Dan Kritenbrink stated, “This shipment will help protect healthcare professionals working on the frontlines against COVID-19 in the United States and demonstrates the strength of the US-Vietnam partnership.”
The United States faces a mounting crisis with a total of 554,849 cases and 21,942 deaths as reported April 13. In efforts to aid Vietnam, officials from the US Centers for Disease Control as well as WHO met with Ministry of Health officials on January 15. In the months since, USAID has implemented online training and discussion programs for 1,500 health workers, addressed the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the United States through collaborations with 180 Vietnamese suppliers, and upgraded response capacities at Vietnamese laboratories. Total government assistance to the country has totaled $3 million out of a total $18.3 million to ASEAN.
Amid the pandemic, US-Vietnam economic relations are warming. In early March, 40 businesses from the US-ASEAN Business Council, including 20 from health and pharmaceutical sectors, visited Hanoi. The country’s Ministry of Industry and Trade signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the business council to boost trade, economical and effective use of energy, industry and chemicals, goods consumption, information sharing, and more. Exports from Vietnam have increased 300% over the past decade — the highest growth rate among ASEAN states. The United States currently accounts for two-thirds of the country’s export market.
A developing country, Vietnam represents best cases of responses to COVID-19, despite having only 8 doctors per 10,000 people. Shortly after the outbreak began in Wuhan, Vietnam implemented targeted contact tracing measures such as isolating infections and tracing second- and third-hand contacts —15,637 people were tested as of March 20. The government has tightened border controls, suspended flights, and closed schools, with a national epidemic declared on April 1. The country has contained confirmed cases to 251 with no fatalities.
Minister of Foreign Affairs To Anh Dung states Vietnam is engaged in international cooperation to deal with the spread of COVID-19. The minister ceremonially sent 550,000 face masks to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom on April 7. Earlier, Vietnam provided $200,000 in medical equipment to Laos and Cambodia and committed to providing rapid testing kits to 20 countries. Forty firms in Vietnam have the capacity to produce 7 million face masks per day.
Amanda Mei is a research intern in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She graduated from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies in 2018.