According to Wikipedia, the entire population of the 11 countries making up Southeast Asia, which includes Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and others, is 655 million, or a little more than twice that of the U.S.
There is a total of 203,000 cases of COVID-19 and 5,700 deaths in Southeast Asia. But in the U.S., we have 3.68 million cases and 141,000 deaths, almost 25 times the number of deaths with half the number of people. From world data, the average annual income in the U.S. is $63,000. In Vietnam it is $2,360. Vietnam has had zero deaths from COVID-19. Why?
For what it is worth here is my theory on what Southeast Asia did right and what we are doing wrong:
1. After the SARS outbreak, the countries of Southeast Asia focused on containing the virus. Containing the virus required locating each infected person, quarantining them, roping off the area, the building, etc. where that person was located, and contact tracing – testing anyone who had been in contact with that person. Each and every person who is infected, sick or tested positive must be quarantined until they are virus free. In this way, the virus can be contained and stomped out completely locally.
2. Delaying the spread of the virus is the approach we are taking. It involves locking down all non-essential businesses, social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding crowds, etc. This approach does not specifically target the infected person. These measures are requested of everyone and are designed to slow the spread of the virus
3. To contain the virus and stomp it out locally and keep it stomped out would require not allowing people to travel anyplace place where the virus has been stomped out without being tested and/or quarantined.
Containing the virus works. Delaying the virus spread does not. There are two important additional differences between the U.S. and Southeast Asia.
1. We are too rich and travel too much and too freely, spreading the virus as we go, making local containment problematic. People in Vietnam, for example, travel mostly by motorbike and then only to and from work.
2. We don’t obey – even the requirements for delaying the virus spread much less the requirements that would be necessary to contain the virus.