The novel coronavirus has infected more than 4.56 million people worldwide, as of Friday afternoon. More than 305,000 of them died of COVID-19 complications, and that number will only increase in the coming weeks. The real number of global COVID-19 cases is likely much larger, as many people weren’t diagnosed with a test, or did not show any symptoms. Asymptomatic carriers don’t qualify for testing in countries where the number of tests is still limited. The disease will continue to spread for some time to come, and we may never get rid of it altogether.
But not all countries had to deal with a high number of cases. Several countries stand out for the way they’ve handled their local COVID-19 epidemic, and one of them is Vietnam. The Asian country that borders China reported its first case back in January. Since then, Vietnam’s official caseload grew to 312, and the state reported no fatalities. What’s really interesting is that Vietnam has already spent $200,000 to keep one COVID-19 patient alive whose lungs are have been so dramatically affected by the virus that he will require a transplant.
With a population of over 95 million people, Vietnam’s COVID-19 caseload seems like a statistical anomaly compared to what we see in other similar regions. Some countries may have forgotten to report the number of COVID-19 deaths correctly, and are suspected of having hidden the true scope of the infection. One country has yet to report a single case. And another fought a pneumonia of unknown origin before making the true scope of its coronavirus outbreak official. Things got so bad that said country experienced a strange phenomenon where a few doctors found themselves falling to their deaths in a matter of days.
Patient 91 is one of the country’s 52 patients that have yet to recover from COVID-19. The man is a 43-year-old British pilot who works for Vietnam Airlines and was diagnosed in mid-March. He is believed to have caught the virus in a bar in Ho Chi Minh City. Reuters says that more than 4,000 people connected to the bar cluster were tested, and 18 of them were confirmed positive.
Most of them have recovered, but the unidentified British man has been on life support for more than 30 days, and his condition has deteriorated significantly. Patient 91 has just 10% of his lung capacity left, and the case became widely publicized in the country. The government has already spent $200,000 to keep the patient alive. Doctors attempted to treat blood clots in the patient with the help of imported medicine from overseas, but the patient’s condition hasn’t improved.
The health ministry held a meeting with experts from top hospitals on Tuesday and decided that the only way to save the man’s life was to perform a lung transplant. Two days later, state media reported that 10 people, including a 70-year-old military veteran, volunteered as lung donors.
Vietnam regulators do not allow doctors to transplant lungs donated “by most living people,” said a representative of the Vietnam National Coordinating Centre for Human Organ Transplantation to a local paper. The irony is that someone else would have to die for this patient to be saved, and even then, there would have to be a match between the donor and the Brit.
Reuters notes that the government has enjoyed broad support for the way it handled the coronavirus outbreak. Vietnam used aggressive testing and a mass centralized quarantine to contain the epidemic. It may be very well propaganda that plays well locally and abroad, but Vietnam’s quest to save a single man at any cost shouldn’t go unnoticed in a world where the new normal includes daily news reports detailing thousands of new COVID-19 deaths.
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