VIETNAM, SOCIALISTS LEAD THE WAY IN COMBATTING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

By Merck Maguddayao

The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed the real character of capitalism, in both its authoritarian and liberal faces, as a system that sees the majority of humanity as both machines—rendering labour in exchange for starvation wages—and consumers of necessities, and fetishes, products of that labour. Unfortunately, this has been the order for around 400 years.

In contrast, the alternative to capitalism, socialism, is a system that puts the interest of human beings first—health, education, and solidarity, despite existing socialism being only a few countries beleaguered by capitalist powers at just the first stage of creating something beyond capitalism, that is, a state led by workers.

The characters of both contrasting systems have been revealed by COVID-19. A vast majority of the world, from Western superpowers to the impoverished “Global South,” run by both authoritarian and liberal regimes, are in dire straits, as, aside from a pandemic, a global recession is currently taking place. But, at the very least, countries with socialistic features like universal healthcare (UHC), proactive governments, and strong labour and progressive movements, are faring better in this pandemic and are starting to “normalize” life way ahead of capitalist powers.

This is not just a baseless slant toward socialism; this is literally what data pertinent to the COVID-19 pandemic shows as (as of 20 May 2020 or 70 days after the World Health Organization pandemic declaration), hailed as among the most credible reference websites in the world.

Table 1: Most resilient countries

RankCountry/TerritoryInfection rate on tested individuals (%)Testing capacity rank (worldwide)DeathsRecovery rate (%)Mortality rate among confirmed cases (%)
Vietnam0.118128th081.173 
2New Caledonia0.33063rd0100 
3Greenland0.62344th0100 
4Bhutan0.14565th028.571 
5Rwanda0.589114th068.790 
6Cambodia0.783156th0100 
7Papua New Guinea0.333174th0100 
8Grenada0.73248th077.273 
9Namibia0.619155th087.500 
10Laos0.401165th073.684 
11Uganda0.341142nd024.621 
12Brunei0.78336th196.4540.709
13Hong Kong0.62752nd497.1590.379
14Botswana0.195101st158.6213.448
15Palestine0.88794th286.9350.503
16Benin0.492134th243.4861.538
17Nepal0.402115th210.1350.450
18Taiwan0.629126th792.2901.587
19Mauritius0.34714th1096.9803.012
20Venezuela0.13455th1033.7781.335
21Jordan0.44076th966.3691.339
22New Zealand0.61426th2196.6071.397
23Uzbekistan0.64181st1380.4070.441
24Zimbabwe0.171139th437.5008.333
25Ethiopia0.592168th531.3621.285


Vietnam is widely hailed as among the best countries in combating COVID-19. Statistics show that this socialist country in Southeast Asia has the lowest infection rate among tested individuals in the world, 0.118%, with zero deaths and a recovery rate 81%.

Vietnam’s success is due to its nature as a workers’ state, wherein ordinary working people are the ones in power, despite its openness to capitalist investments. As early as January 22, the Vietnamese Health Ministry opened its health centres for those with symptoms and on January 24, it activated an Emergency Epidemic Prevention Centre, immediately treating the entry of the virus in Vietnam as a health emergency despite only having two confirmed cases that time.

Right off the bat, there were mobile response teams led by health professionals in major cities and points of entry. On February 1, the government imposed a travel ban on incoming foreign visitors and closed all borders. A nationwide epidemic was declared despite having only six cases.

Quarantine facilities were immediately set up, which included the government requisitioning strategic private facilities and factories for the rapid production of test kits and protective gear. Since hospitals are state-owned, in-patient admission is guaranteed. No one was left behind in the most literal sense that a dying British national was saved by lung transplant. The masses were not blamed for the spread of the virus—in fact, it did not spread because the masses were mobilized by the government to help in containing the disease, through communitarian efforts. The military and police served as multipliers for health workers, not as government thugs.

Other socialist countries have fared well in combating the virus. Laos, Vietnam’s neighbour, has an infection rate of 0.401% cent on tested individuals, a 73% recovery rate, and zero deaths. Like Vietnam, Laos is a workers’ state with a nationalized healthcare system and has received medical assistance from their socialist neighbour as well.

Venezuela, a country clobbered with sanctions, bad press, and violence by Western powers, has the second lowest infection rate in the world on tested individuals at 0.134%. It has an impressive testing capacity of 21,676 tests per one million people, which is 55th in the world, better than France, Sweden, South Korea, and Japan.

Aside from health response, Venezuela’s economic response is also astounding, with President Nicolas Maduro ordering the suspension of rent and bills collection for six month, state-sponsored payment of workers’ wages, and subsidy for small and medium enterprises—heroic measures for a country suffering from staggering economic sanctions. Furthermore, people’s-based militias called colectivos were mobilized to guard their respective communities while health missions ensure rapid mass testing in the neediest communities.

Amidst the pandemic, an American mercenary outfit set out to terrorize Venezuela. On May 3, the government announced that local revolutionary militia in the fishing community of Macuto Bay they have intercepted and arrested two ex-Green Beret operatives, and some Venezuelan army defectors and Colombian paramilitaries. These were trained and directed by shadowy Florida-based “private military company”, Silvercorp USA, run by Trump-linked ex-Green Beret Jordan Groudreau, in an attempted coup to oust Maduro.

Nepal, a country governed by Nepal Communist Party, has an infection rate of 0.402% on tested individuals and has a higher testing capacity than the likes of Brazil and India. It has a mortality rate of 0.45% among confirmed cases.

Cuba, while not in the top 25 list, also has impressive resiliency numbers, with an infection rate of 2.177% among tested, which is better than all of Europe and North America. It has an 83% recovery rate and a 4% mortality rate among confirmed cases.

Most notable about Cuba is its international solidarity, having a history of sending doctors, not bombs, abroad. Italy, for one, has finally “flattened the curve” despite being once the worst-hit country in the world, and this is in part of the help of Cuban doctors.

Grenada, Cuba’s neighbor in the badly-hit Caribbean region (as would be shown in a later table), is the eighth most resilient in the world with a 0.732% infection rate, 77% recovery rate, testing capacity of 26,737 per one million, and zero deaths. This is in part of Cuban doctors’ rescue and substantial testing kits donated by Venezuela.

African countries that has partnered with Cuba in healthcare development has also been succeeding against COVID-19 and is in the most resilient list. These include Botswana, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. Papua New Guinea, which is also served by Cuban doctors, has cured all eight COVID-19 patients by May 4.

The State of Kerala in India, a state governed by a communist party, has also shown great strides in combating COVID-19 with an infection of 1.385%, 74% recovery rate, and only three deaths (0.435% mortality). In comparison, the entire country of India, under the leadership of an authoritarian populist, has an infection rate of 4.298%, recovery rate of 40%, and mortality rate of 3%.

Some capitalist countries with various types of more social democratic government, or where a strong liberation or labour movement has created more social cohesion, are also ahead in the fight against COVID-19. Hong Kong, for one, has an astounding 97% recovery rate with its predominantly public-owned healthcare system. New Zealand, under a Labour government, has a 96% recovery rate while Palestine, a country illegally occupied and terrorized by Israel, has a 0.887% infection rate and 87% recovery rate with only two deaths (0.583% motality rate). Israel, on the other hand, has a 3.189% infection rate, 81% recovery rate, and 279 deaths (1.674% mortality rate).

Zimbabwe had a peculiar route in attaining COVID-19 resiliency as a strike by doctors and health workers led by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) commenced on March 25, with demands for adequate protective equipment and a pay rise. They sued the Zimbabwe government before the High Court on April 9 to immediately issue protective equipment to health workers, which was won by the union on April 14. Zimbabwe has a 0.171% infection rate—the lowest in Africa although ZADHR remains vigilance as, according to them, corruption by their oligarchic rulers is still rampant in their country.

Countries with universal health care also part of the most resilient list. Bhutan has a nationalized health system that is absolutely free to all. Taiwan and Mauritius have a single-payer UHC program while Rwanda has universal health insurance coverage.

Aside from these, a common feature of all the countries in the list is a quick state response and intervention in dealing with the pandemic. Aside from the usual travel bans and lockdowns, quarantine facilities and isolation centres were quickly set up.

In the next article, we will explore the top 25 least resilient countries in the world, as well as a glimpse of how the ten most powerful countries in the world, as well as the Nordic countries, hailed as the “good face” of capitalism, fared in battling the pandemic.

Merck Maguddayao is the General Secretary of the Solidarity of Unions in the Philippines for Empowerment and Reforms (SUPER) and a founding member of Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM).

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