Green mobility: traveling safely despite virus

September 10, 2021 | 06:53 pm PT
Vu Tu Thanh Deputy Regional Managing Director and Vietnam Representative for the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council
At the conclusion of a meeting that lasted over three hours last Saturday afternoon, one of the proposals that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh agreed with related to ‘green movement.’

"Task the Ministry of Health with issuing nationwide uniform guidelines on allowing workers, experts, foreigners entering Vietnam who have been vaccinated and quarantined for seven days to travel ... around the whole country," he said.

"This is called safe movement, green movement."

This was one of the six contents that the PM decided on at a meeting with U.S. business executives that lasted twice as long as scheduled.

Top officials from ministries and other government agencies, Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces patiently listened to nearly 15 demands from the U.S. side.

The meeting took place in the same room where the PM had received U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris a week earlier.

After listening to executives from all seven businesses on the official list, the PM invited all the other delegates to express their opinions until no one had anything else to say. Throughout the process, he listened attentively and constantly took notes.

In his concluding speech, he was already issuing specific instructions related to many of the proposals, including the U.S. Business Council's on green movement.

Firstly, I believe we need to clarify the concept of movement. Human movement by itself is not the cause of disease transmission. It is unsafe movement that causes the spread of a virus.

To achieve this, authorities need to do two things: clearly define what is safe and what is unsafe and find ways to minimize unsafe movement while increasing safe movement.

In fact, due to the fear of Covid-19 spread, many localities have been restricting both types of movement, which is unfeasible and results in an increase in infections.

Secondly, due to a lack of consensus on how to approach it, localities are currently at a loss on how to handle people's movement.

The "matrix" presented by government leaders at various levels to the public and businesses, which has disrupted supply chains, also originated from the overly simplistic and theoretical notion that the spread of a disease is due to human movement. However, science and reality have shown that human movement by itself is not the culprit, and the true cause is unsafe movement.

The most easily observed example of safe movement and contact is that of the government's task forces and anti-epidemic teams, who have been entering the heart of HCMC's red zone and are still well.

Thirdly, the notion of green movement is inconsistent across consulting and policy-making agencies, which has caused much confusion. For example, Hanoi last week issued an almost complete ban on all types of movement, both safe and unsafe. The city then added requirements for travel permits earlier this week, causing difficulties to people's daily life and to businesses and even putting it at risk of becoming another HCMC.

A police officer questions a man over his travel paper in Hanoi, July 28, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Hy

A police officer questions a man over his travel paper in Hanoi, July 28, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Green movement can be imagined as consisting of three components: green people, green means and green processes.

Green people are those who already have the necessary amount of antibodies, either because they have received two doses of a vaccine or were earlier infected, and are well trained in epidemic prevention.

The government can mobilize them for social works that require movement to compensate for those who cannot move safely and are still restricted.

Green means are the equipment necessary to ensure that carrying out epidemic prevention tasks, social security services and business will not threaten a spread of the disease to the community or green people.

Green processes are designed to meet the safety standards of epidemic prevention, and some fields already have them.

If the authorities can soon clarify the principles of green movement for it to be consistent from central to local levels, we can quickly resolve the inconsistencies in the anti-epidemic policies at different levels and the rigid, arbitrary behavior of law enforcers.

If the barriers that have been causing stress to the public and businesses are removed, it will also send a positive message about Vietnam's epidemic control efforts to the international community.

A "living" society must be operating, must have a certain amount of movement instead of bringing everything to a halt.

*Vu Tu Thanh is Deputy Regional Managing Director and Vietnam Representative for the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council. The opinions expressed are his own.

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