Military plays major role in Covid-19 prevention in Vietnam


It takes hours to walk through forest and mountains to reach the checkpoints (Photo: Dantri)

By Phong Lan

HANOI: While Vietnam has been praised by international friends for its first success in combating the coronavirus, not everyone is aware that the local military is making great contributions in preventing the spread of the deadly virus.

With experiences earned from the SARS epidemic outbreak in 2003, the Southeast Asian country was determined to carry out prevention work since the epidemic was first reported in neighbouring China late last year.

Since the first days of taking preventing measures, the military was mobilised as among the country’s most important forces.

On March 4, the Vietnamese military was engaged in a large-scale joint exercise to get ready necessary procedures to respond to different scenarios of the epidemic.

The drill was organised after Vietnam successfully treated all 16 first Covid-19 patients and the country had reported no new infections since February 13.

Speaking at the exercise which was directed by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam who is also the head of the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, and National Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich, the deputy PM said that this was the first time in history the military was mobilised to combat an epidemic.

“We must not get too comfortable. We will only be safe when the epidemic is completely eradicated,” he noted.

The exercise on an unprecedented scale includes five scenarios based on five levels of severity of the epidemic.


Doctors treat a patient at a makeshift hospital during an exercise for Covid-19 prevention in Hanoi (Photo: Dantri)

In the most serious scenario, there are more than 30,000 confirmed cases in the country and the virus has spread to several military units.

Under the direction of the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, the Ministry of National Defence helped in setting up check-points at a number of border gates and trails, building makeshift hospitals and concentrated quarantine areas; spraying disinfectant, receiving, caring and implementing medical quarantine for people entering Vietnam from virus-hit countries and territories.

According to lieutenant colonel Do Xuan Trinh, head of the Nam Giang Border Gate Station, they are monitoring the 31-kilometre border line with Laos and more border soldiers have been mobilised recently for the Covid-19 prevention.

To carry out the Covid-19 prevention and control work, since mid-March, they have set up four checkpoints each of which is controlled by a group of between five and nine soldiers.

“We have been staying at the checkpoints for over a month without family visits,” he said. “To reach some checkpoints, it takes roughly a day to walk through forests and mountains. At each checkpoint, we are divided into two groups with four members each who take turns to guard the point and patrol along the border.”

The official said that although life at the checkpoints is very tough, they still have to prepare for the situation that the epidemic would last long. Due to difficult roads, they have grown vegetables and raised chickens and ducks in the forest for daily meals.


Soldiers growing vegetables at a checkpoint near Laos border gate in Quang Nam Province (Photo: Dantri)

On March 28, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc sent a letter to praise the military’s efforts in preventing of the Covid-19 epidemic.

In his letter, the Prime Minister wrote that with a “fighting the pandemic is like fighting the enemy” spirit, the military has been mobilised to join with the whole political system, agencies at all levels, sectors and people to combat it.

The Prime Minister especially praised those who are on the frontlines of the battle, adding that the images of military officers and soldiers sleeping outdoors at night and having quick meals to fight Covid-19 have proved the beautiful tradition of the heroic People’s Army of Vietnam.

Vietnam has reported no more Covid-19 infection cases for the past five days as of April 21 with the total patient number remaining at 268. The country has seen no deaths and 207 patients have fully recovered.

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