The Cambridge online dictionary defines “proactive” as taking action by causing change and not only reacting to change when it happens. What can be a greater way of living than making things happen instead of waiting for things to happen to you?
A proactive person is ready before something happens. This takes foresightedness, being visionary and the readiness to act. This is the story of Vietnam. A country of about 97-million people according to https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/vietnam/overview. This country shares proximity to China, the world epicenter of Covid-19.
The story of Vietnam’s effective management of the crisis is no doubt that of proactiveness and foresightedness. While other nations of the world are counting their loss at an overwhelming rate, Vietnam took advantage of a small window to act early. At the point of acting, many nations of the world must have tagged them as over-reacting but that overreaction is paying off.
Taking cognizance of the possibility and reality of their health system being overwhelmed as presently experienced by other nations of the world, the nation took bold, decisive and proactive measure targeted at early prevention rather than cure. Experience has shown too many times that prevention even though looks expensive at the time of taking it is usually less expensive than cure in the long run.
What did Vietnam do? By early January, before it recorded any confirmed case, the government of Vietnam initiated a drastic action to prepare for the virus. As at that time, only two people had died from the infection In Wuhan. Vietnam moved swiftly to restrict travels, closed borders with China, and increased health checks at its borders. Schools were closed at the end of January and remained closed until mid-May. By March, Vietnam was sending everyone who entered the country and anyone within the country who had contact with a confirmed case to compulsory 14-days quarantine. While in quarantine, everyone was tested whether sick or not. Vietnam practically sealed off any area with suspected and confirmed cases.
To support all of the swift measures put in place, there was adequate communication with the citizens. Regular SMS messages were sent to all phones from the early stage on the situation at hand and what the people could do to protect themselves. Communication in leadership has been identified as a major tool for effective leadership. This communication must have stimulated a huge trust in the government as the people largely acted in support of the government. Today, Vietnam has only about 300 confirmed cases with zero death recorded.
It may be too late for other nations to apply lessons from Vietnam in handling Covid-19 but the lessons provided by Vietnam’s strategy will be ever true to leadership, to survival, to thriving in crisis, and in time of peace.