Estimating and mitigating the risk of COVID-19 epidemic rebound associated with reopening of international borders in Vietnam: a modelling study

Lancet Glob Health. 2021 Jul;9(7):e916-e924. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00103-0. Epub 2021 Apr 12.


Background: Vietnam has emerged as one of the world's leading success stories in responding to COVID-19. After a prolonged period of little to no transmission, there was an outbreak of unknown source in July, 2020, in the Da Nang region, but the outbreak was quickly suppressed. We aimed to use epidemiological, behavioural, demographic, and policy data from the COVID-19 outbreak in Da Nang to calibrate an agent-based model of COVID-19 transmission for Vietnam, and to estimate the risk of future outbreaks associated with reopening of international borders in the country.

Methods: For this modelling study, we used comprehensive data from June 15 to Oct 15, 2020, on testing, COVID-19 cases, and quarantine breaches within an agent-based model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to model a COVID-19 outbreak in Da Nang in July, 2020. We applied this model to quantify the risk of future outbreaks in Vietnam in the 3 months after the reopening of international borders, under different behavioural scenarios, policy responses (ie, closure of workplaces and schools), and ongoing testing.

Findings: We estimated that the outbreak in Da Nang between July and August, 2020, resulted in substantial community transmission, and that higher levels of symptomatic testing could have mitigated this transmission. We estimated that the outbreak peaked on Aug 2, 2020, with an estimated 1060 active infections (95% projection interval 890-1280). If the population of Vietnam remains highly compliant with mask-wearing policies, our projections indicate that the epidemic would remain under control even if a small but steady flow of imported infections escaped quarantine into the community. However, if complacency increases and testing rates are relatively low (10% of symptomatic individuals are tested), the epidemic could rebound again, resulting in an estimated 2100 infections (95% projected interval 1050-3610) in 3 months. These outcomes could be mitigated if the behaviour of the general population responds dynamically to increases in locally acquired cases that exceed specific thresholds, but only if testing of symptomatic individuals is also increased.

Interpretation: The successful response to COVID-19 in Vietnam could be improved even further with higher levels of symptomatic testing. If the previous approaches are used in response to new COVID-19 outbreaks, epidemic control is possible even in the presence of low levels of imported cases.

Funding: Ministry of Science and Technology (Vietnam).

Translation: For the Vietnamese translation of the abstract see Supplementary Materials section.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Imported / epidemiology*
  • Epidemics*
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Risk Assessment
  • Travel / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Vietnam / epidemiology