Although the COVID-19 pandemic took an unimaginably heavy toll worldwide throughout 2020, Vietnam managed to stand strong and became the world’s epitome in COVID-19 prevention and control.
The country further affirmed its role in the region and the world by being the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2020.
Powerful storms and natural disasters continued to cause heavy losses and tragedies in Vietnam, especially in its central provinces.
Throughout the year, Vietnam took assertive measures to crack down on corruption and further tightened order and security by implementing new regulations.
The country also obtained remarkable achievements in the medical field.
Here are the highlights of Vietnam’s social and political picture in the past year:
Successfully containing COVID-19:
As of December 31, Vietnam had recorded 1,456 COVID-19 cases, with 1,323 recoveries and only 35 deaths.
Meanwhile, over 83 million across the world have been infected with COVID-19, of which more than 1.8 million have been killed by the respiratory disease.
Vietnam logged its first two patients on January 23 and was hit by the first wave of infections in early March.
The first wave was considered the most serious period of the pandemic as it affected many provinces and cities across the country, forcing the central government to implement nationwide extensive social distancing for three weeks from April 1 and ban all inbound international flights from late March.
The second wave began in Da Nang City on July 25, with the source of infection remained unclear to authorities. Enhanced social distancing measures were reinstated in the central city from July 28 to September 4.
The country recorded its first COVID-19-related death on July 31.
Vietnam went through nearly three months without detecting any community-based infection, before a locally-transmitted case was recorded in Ho Chi Minh City on November 30.
Thanks to authorities’ relentless efforts, only three other cases linked to this patient were reported, while all of their direct and indirect contacts were rapidly tracked, quarantined, and tested for COVID-19.
The country has been free of community-based infection since December 2, with four cases having been detected among six Vietnamese border jumpers since Saturday.
ASEAN Chair 2020:
In 2020, Vietnam successfully performed the roles of ASEAN Chair 2020, President of the 41st General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA-41), and Non-Permanent Member of the UN Security Council in the 2020-21 tenure.
The country organized the 36th and 37th ASEAN Summits and related meetings online and semi-online, presenting 13 initiatives to control COVID-19 and implementing the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework.
The 37th ASEAN Summit adopted more than 80 documents, the highest number passed at an ASEAN summit, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Vietnam proposed initiatives to organize the first open discussion on UN-ASEAN cooperation, with the theme ‘Upholding the UN Charter to Maintain International Peace and Security,’ and designated the date of December 27 as International Day of Epidemic Preparedness.
Destructive storms ravage central provinces:
Vietnam was hit by a total of 14 storms in 2020.
Among them, seven consecutive storms hit Vietnam’s central region in October and November.
The natural phenomena unleashed massive amounts of rainfall, which triggered devastating landslides, flash floods, and inundation.
As of November 22, 249 people were killed and/or missing due to the natural disasters, while financial damage mounted to over VND30 trillion (US$1.3 billion).
The deadliest landslides occurred at Rao Trang 3 hydropower project in north-central Thua Thien-Hue Province, Nam Tra My and Phuoc Son Districts in central Quang Nam Province, and Huong Hoa District in north-central Quang Tri Province, which killed many people and left multiple others missing.
Many senior officials, including two members and one former member of the Politburo and five members and former members of the Party Central Committee, received strict disciplinary measures and heavy sentences for corruption and violations in 2020.
Some of the most noticeable cases involved Hanoi’s former chairman Nguyen Duc Chung, former deputy secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee Tat Thanh Cang, former Hanoi Party Committee Secretary Hoang Trung Hai, ex-deputy chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Tran Vinh Tuyen, and former Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang.
The investigations into a number of serious and complex cases were also sped up, including those relating to the Vietnam People’s Navy, Hai Thanh Company, Mobifone, Vietnam Social Security, BIDV, Sacombank, and the Thai Nguyen Iron and Steel Corporation.
Violations in land management and the management and use of state property in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang City were also comprehensively probed.
New regulations slap heavier penalties on drunk drivers:
From January 1, Government Decree No. 100 took effect, initiating more severe punishments upon traffic rule violators, especially those driving under the influence of alcohol.
Accordingly, drunk car drivers face fines worth up to VND30-40 million ($1,300-1,740) and license revocation for 22-24 months.
People who ride motorbikes under the influence of alcohol are fined VND6-8 million ($260-350) and have their licenses revoked for 22-24 months.
Riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol is punishable by a VND400,000-600,000 ($17-26) fine.
A lot of violators were booked and fined during peak periods of traffic violation crackdowns in the country throughout 2020.
The new rules also stirred up debate, as many people believed that the fines were too harsh.
Against the backdrop of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, multiple units in Vietnam began developing the COVID-19 vaccine in 2020.
The human trial of Nanocovax, a jab developed by Vietnamese manufacturer Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, began in mid-December.
After Nanocovax, the vaccines developed by the IVAC and Vabiotech are expected to have their human trials in February and March 2021, respectively.
Doctors in Vietnam, in coordination with local and international experts, successfully treated COVID-19 patient No. 91, a Scottish pilot who was dubbed the most critically ill COVID-19 patient in Vietnam then.
He was repatriated to his hometown on July 11 after receiving treatment at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City for 115 days.
In July, doctors at Children’s Hospital 1 in Ho Chi Minh City managed to separate twins Truc Nhi and Dieu Nhi, who were born conjoined at the pelvis. The sisters are now able to walk on their own.
On February 24, the Central Military Hospital 108 announced it had successfully performed the world’s first limb transplant from a live donor. It was also the first limb transplant in Southeast Asia.
Telecommuting a rising trend
During serious COVID-19 outbreaks and strict social distancing periods, many companies and institutions had to tell their employees to work from home.
Public servants in major Vietnamese cities and provinces were also allowed to follow the trend, while most administrative procedures could be carried out via the websites of these agencies.
Many important meetings, seminars, and conferences of the country’s government, Party, National Assembly, and other state agencies were also organized virtually to prevent the spread of the epidemic.
Online lessons took place at local schools and universities when necessary as part of COVID-19 prevention and control efforts.
Such applications as Skype and Zoom played a vital role in the telework trend across Vietnam this year.
This article was originally published on Tuoitre