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Income security during public health emergencies: the COVID-19 poverty trap in Vietnam
  1. Phuong Bich Tran1,2,
  2. Gunnel Hensing3,
  3. Tom Wingfield1,4,
  4. Salla Atkins1,5,
  5. Kristi Sidney Annerstedt1,
  6. Joseph Kazibwe1,6,
  7. Ewan Tomeny7,
  8. Olivia Biermann1,
  9. Jennifer Thorpe1,
  10. Rachel Forse1,8,
  11. Knut Lönnroth1
  1. 1Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium
  3. 3School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Institute of Medicine, the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Goteborg, Sweden
  4. 4Department of Clinical Sciences and International Public Health, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK
  5. 5New Social Research and Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
  6. 6Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  7. 7Centre for Applied Health Research & Delivery, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK
  8. 8TB Programs, Friends for International TB Relief, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
  1. Correspondence to Ms Phuong Bich Tran; phuong.tran{at}

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Summary box

  • The COVID-19 poverty trap is shaped by barriers to accessing prevention, vulnerability to economic disruption and financial uncertainties, and incurrence of catastrophic costs as people try to cope with the outbreak.

  • To ensure socioeconomic stability and confidence during public health crises and in the long run, social protection schemes (e.g. social insurance, microfinancing) must be in place to help people cope with the loss of income security and reduced confidence in society.


As of 17 April 2020, over 2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported in over 200 countries and territories with a death toll approaching 150,000 globally.1 Economists have been quick to highlight the macroeconomic impacts and global repercussions of the COVID-19 outbreak on economies. This article aims to highlight the microeconomic impacts through an account of the myriad stressors that are being experienced by individuals and households.

Vietnam’s proximity to China increased the early risk assessment for COVID-19 spread and the resulting response has posed a heavy impact on the country’s economy and supply chain. As the fourth most visited country in the world by Chinese tourists, Vietnam typically welcomes one-third of all its tourists from China.2 Moreover, up to 30% of Vietnam’s imports are dependent on China and the suspension of seafood and agriculture exports to China has caused a massive crisis for Vietnamese farmers.3 ,4 In the last 20 years, Vietnam has undergone various transnational health threats including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and avian influenza A (H5N1, H5N6 and H1N1).5 Since then, the Vietnamese government has pooled its resources to develop a more resilient health system that builds on the experiences and learnt lessons in disease surveillance, training and outbreak response. Given its location and characteristics, we use Vietnam and COVID-19 as a case study to help highlight social inequality …

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