Gradual reopening key to HCMC recovery: experts

By Quynh Trang, Phuong Anh   September 10, 2021 | 07:20 pm PT
Gradual reopening key to HCMC recovery: experts
A military personnel provides food support for residents in Binh Thanh District in Ho Chi Minh City on September 2, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
HCMC should only reopen its economy when vaccination and infection figures signal improvement to avoid causing more damage to struggling businesses, experts say.

Tran Hoang Ngan, head of Ho Chi Minh City Institute for Development Studies, said vaccinating the majority of HCMC’s population is key to determine when to reopen the economy.

The city has given the first dose to around 85 percent of its population as of Sep. 8. The figure is set to reach 90 percent by Sep. 15.

By then, around 20-30 percent of the HCMC population are set to receive two doses.

These figures signal the city should consider reopening, Ngan said.

But other indicators that need to be taken into account include the reduction in number of new patients and deaths, he said.

To bring these figures down the city needs to increase the distribution of medicines in hospitals and in pharmacies so Covid-19 patients could buy them, he added.

Officials in HCMC, where over 286,200 Covid-19 cases have been recorded since the end of April, recently said people will have to gradually learn to live with the disease as the lockdown strategy cannot go on forever.

The city, which contributes around 20 percent of Vietnam’s GDP, has suspended the activities of most companies in the last two months, while experts have feared Vietnam’s position in the supply chain might be rocked by mobility restrictions.

With 5,000-7,000 confirmed cases each day in the last five days, experts say apart from pushing vaccination and reducing deaths, the country needs to plan a safe process for reopening.

Dang Hoang Hai Anh, a lecturer at Vietnam National University International School, said dividing the city into zones depending on the level of Covid-contagion risks is a smart strategy.

He said companies in the green zone, where risks are lowest, could operate normally, while those in the orange zone (average risks) will operate under restrictions, and in the red zone (highest risks), prioritize the Covid-19 fight over business.

Chairman of HCMC Union of Business Association (HUBA) Chu Tien Dung said businesses should not consider this period a time for hibernation.

They need to prepare to operate in a new state where masks and social distancing are the new normal, he added.

He proposed that manufacturing zones and foreign direct invested companies are allowed to operate normally to ensure the supply chain is not disrupted.

Although most companies expect a reopening soon, some experts advise immature resumption would only hurt business.

Nguyen Khac Quoc Bao, head of Fintech Institute under the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City, said every economic activity relates to another and resumption needs to take this into account.

Reopening only HCMC while southern localities remain closed would not be effective, he said.

An early reopening that results in a surge in new cases would only cause more damage to businesses who will have to once again face uncertainty, he added.

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