“Half the people in the hospital are Vietnamese and get the exact same treatment here as the foreigners”
So I would just like to relate my own experience of what it’s like right now on the inside of the Coronavirus testing system in Vietnam, so that others can understand more of what’s happening and what to expect.
Firstly I would like to mention that Vietnam evidently has done a great job in preventing the spread of the virus. Overall the healthcare system is great and their extreme measures are working. However, because they are so extreme, if you are a foreigner it’s easy to get caught inside it, where communication is not great and precaution far precedes anything.
I returned to Hanoi 12 days ago, finding out as I landed that the virus had also returned to the city and with it much stricter precautions. During the flight my ears became blocked, a condition that I’ve faced before and something that runs in the family. I tried for a week to unclog my ears as my hearing was slightly impaired. I also self quarantined myself just incase, despite feeling otherwise healthy. But my home remedies weren’t working so I decided to go to the clinic to try get them unclogged.
Upon arriving there, they asked more details about myself – I explained that I didn’t have any other symptoms for the virus, except for a slight cough that I had only picked up that day. I also told them I had recently flown internationally and despite the fact that I had come from a country with at the time, almost no cases, they were immediately concerned and told me I was to be immediately escorted to the special disease centre hospital where I was to remain for 2 days for testing. I was not allowed to go home to collect any belongings.
At the hospital I was put in a room with 4 other young men around my age, 3 of them foreigners from the EU, altho only one was a tourist, they other two had been living here. The two that had been living here both had minor symptoms, but had wanted to do the responsible thing of taking the test. They were also forced to immediately come to this hospital, the one man only had his jacket with him.
Samples were taken for testing that night and the next day we we were told we had tested negative, but had to wait 3 days for a second test to confirm the result. Later on we found out that the number was in fact 5 days. Also they have just informed us we will only be allowed out of the hospital 14 days after the last time of potential contact with the virus, which for me would be the day I flew (even though the flight isn’t one on the list of confirmed cases.)
Also on the second day we found out that the third patient in our room, the tourist from the EU that was in the bed next to me had tested positive for the virus. He was immediately taken to another room. After a brief spray of our room they told us to go back inside, but we refused as they hadn’t cleaned any of the surfaces including the one bathroom which we all shared. Luckily they obliged by our request.
Now I’m not trying to complain about the process, I understand the whole situation is complicated and messy and the people who are the most stressed are the doctors and nurses who are forced to stay in the hospital this whole time and are not even allowed to go home to their families. They are doing a brilliant job and I am so grateful for their efforts.
Unfortunately most of them here do not speak much English so cannot communicate effectively with you. They also prioritise the virus over your other health concerns and you really have to be persistent in asking for medicine and making your personal case known. I know this seems small in the bigger picture, but I thought I’d mention it. Fortunately today a head nurse that spoke good English explained in detail the whole situation and we all feel better now at least knowing what the deal is.
In summary I would just like to bring awareness of the situation, especially to foreigners who might be considering going to see a doctor to get tested. This is what you will be in for. Im not sure what the official policy is, but I would suggest, unless you know you’ve been in direct contact with a person who has the virus, if you have only very minor symptoms, its better to rather self quarantine at home. This will help keep a burden off the system and keep you away from an environment where you might even get the infection.
If you are convinced you have the virus, then at least bring a bag of supplies with you to help keep you comfortable in the hospital, because they’ll probably just ship you off to quarantine immediately. But hey at least you’ll get a ride in an ambulance out of it. (Altho you might have to pay for it).
Edit: I should also mention half the people in this hospital are Vietnamese and get the exact same treatment here as the foreigners. The fourth guy in our room is even Vietnamese. Only difference is the language barrier. The nice thing is that every occasional meal is a more western style meal marked “Tay” just for us, which is nice, because as much as I like Vietnamese food it’s nice to have something different every now and then.
Words and Images by Dale Snail Raad
Dale Snail Raad is a South Africa citizen who lives in Vietnam capital city of Hanoi. The opinions expressed here are his own