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HANOI: Vietnam's economy continued to expand in the first three months of the year, officials said Monday, thanks to the government's success in containing the worst of the coronavirus. And while the 4.48 percent rate given by the General Statistics Office was below forecasts in a Bloomberg survey, it was better than the same period last year and the government said it hoped to chalk up annual growth of 6.5 percent for 2021.

Vietnam has long been one of the best performing economies in Asia and was one of the few in the world to expand last year owing to strict pandemic measures including massive contact tracing and mandatory quarantine. So far it has recorded only around 2,600 infections and 35 deaths among its population of 98 million.

The results showed Vietnam "has realised effectively the double objective of fighting the pandemic while developing its economy", the statistics office said in a statement, adding that the 6.5 percent target was a "huge challenge for the government and the people".

The office said that to remain on target, Vietnam must speed up vaccination efforts, provide business support packages and accelerate public investment projects. So far, Vietnam has vaccinated more than 45,000 people, mostly medical and frontline workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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