If everyone cooperates, adapting to Covid-19 is doable

December 6, 2021 | 04:05 pm PT
Dang Quynh Giang Lawyer
I am a rare case. I haven't been infected with Covid-19 yet, despite contacting many patients at work.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a female colleague for about 15 minutes, maintaining a distance of about a one meter from her. In the evening, she texted me, saying she did a rapid test on her own and found she was positive for the novel coronavirus.

Two days later, another colleague and I had a meeting with my boss. After the meeting, the colleague was not feeling well, so he conducted a test with a rapid kit, and also found he was positive.

To date, about two-thirds of the 100 or so office staff in my company have become Covid-19 patients. So we fear that the rest of us will soon be infected with the disease. Fortunately, I have not contracted the virus yet. I have to mention that I have been wearing two facemasks at work all the time. For all conversations, I keep my distance and avoid direct contact. I rinse my mouth and throat with salt water thrice a day. I disinfect my hands, working areas and working equipment regularly. As soon as I come home, I wash my clothes and take a shower before joining my family.

After several months of implementing the stay-at-work model, my firm experienced a small relief by switching to the circulate-in-safety model. Workers have been coming to work and going home normally for over a month. This is as per the protocol for safe production with easier rules than the stay-at-work model. Only healthy workers commuting from and to safe factories and safe residential areas can work on site. Firms have to ensure the safety of factories and cooperate with landlords of residential areas to keep accommodations safe.

As per regulations given by local healthcare authorities, when implementing the circulate-in-safety model, firms must conduct Covid-19 tests for their workforce at least once a week. My firm actually conducted Covid-19 tests twice a week for the first few weeks. As there was no positive case, the firm was happy as a whole and felt confident in the safety measures we had adopted. Eventually, however, some Covid-19 cases set the firm into a panic. The number of patients increased from only a few to hundreds. We began receiving information about new cases every day. We began to doubt the effectiveness of the circulate-in-safety model and considered resuming the stay-at-work model, like many other firms.

The firm's leadership understood that the anti-virus measures that they had adopted may not be very effective because outside the workplace, workers still contacted other people and were exposed to higher risks of community infection. However, it was no longer possible to ask the staff to follow strict rules and the firm had to adapt to the new trend.

After a lot of time and effort, the firm had all staff fully vaccinated, except for recovered patients who had to wait for six months for their vaccine shots. After a few more weeks of the circulate-in-safety model, the authorities let us ease the protocol by stopping the regular, weekly Covid-19 tests, except for staff with tasks carrying high infection risks. The firm only had to conduct tests for suspected cases with symptoms. This helped reduce the spending, time and efforts made against the pandemic and updated its insights into the pandemic.

In other words, we understood the impacts of policies on production over almost a year, and the change from a zero-Covid strategy to living safely with the virus. Consequentially, with the easier rules, the number of Covid-19 patients in my firm began increasing and it spread from the factory to the office. The transmission at the office was rapid because of closed areas and the use of air conditioners. The firm did consider using fans and turning off air conditioners, but in hot weather, the fans were not good enough and the staff could hardly maintain their productivity in an uncomfortable working condition. The firm then reconsidered the work-from-home option, but this was only a temporary choice because it had not proved very effective earlier. As the firm’s staff became Covid-19 patients one after another, it made a list of infected laborers, checked on them daily, and updated their health conditions regularly. Almost everyone had light symptoms of fever, cough, tiredness, but these did not last more than a few days. Once the symptoms were gone, the patients got Covid-19 tests done again, had some more days of rest after negative results before returning to the office.

Nobody panics about Covid-19 infections anymore. The firm CEO, who is from the U.K., said that England, among the first nations in the world to conduct massive vaccination and resume new normal activities, faced similar problems in the initial phase of "living safely with the pandemic." This meant that there were many patients, but with vaccination, people could still live and work normally. There is no doubt that Covid-19 related damages have been massive. But from the example of my firm, I believe that companies can now control the disease, maintain operations, let their staff work and contribute to the economy without much fear.

For this, authorities should cooperate with companies to spur the rapid vaccination campaign, especially for localities with low coverage. Without a doubt, vaccine is the key to reducing fatalities, maintaining businesses, and pushing back the pandemic. Localities with better vaccination coverage can ensure safety for the people, facilitate economic recovery, and put paid to the zero-Covid strategy.

We also have to strictly observe Covid-19 precautions, except at home. It has been proven that anti-Covid-19 measures can minimize transmission, even in areas with many patients. Firms should be confident about resuming activities upon full vaccination coverage. Similarly, the people's activities and schools should reopen based on high vaccination rates and other suitable strategies.

The world is concerned over new variants of the coronavirus, but activities must go on and productions cannot be delayed forever. As long as anti-infection measures are updated regularly and everyone cooperates in the Covid-19 fight, I firmly believe that the economy will turn a corner in 2022.

*Dang Quynh Giang is a lawyer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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