How to harmonize the two 'fronts'?
There must be satisfactory solutions for the sake of the economy and the country's reputation in international relations because the pressure to open up, for example, through accepting vaccine passports, is great.
A quiet road in HCM City during the days of social distancing.
Hanoi has imposed social distancing since 0:00 on July 13 by banning entertainment activities, outdoor sports and exercise activities, mass gatherings at parks, flower gardens and public sites, and closing barber shops, restaurants…
The capital city also requires people from Ho Chi Minh City, or other epidemic hit areas to have a negative test certificate for SARS-CoV-2 up to nor more than 3 days before arriving in the city.
These are strict measures after several times closing and opening the economy since the lunar New Year 2021 to prevent the Covid-19 epidemic.
At the same time, the country’s largest metropolis - Ho Chi Minh City – has imposed even stricter social distancing measures. The number of infected cases in the city has surpassed 12,000 and is expected to keep rising in the days to come.
Provinces in the south like An Giang, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, Tien Giang, Binh Phuoc, and some towns in Binh Duong have also implemented emergency social distancing measures as the number of infected cases has been on the rise these days.
The number of provinces that will impose social distancing measures is expected to increase in the coming time. In such a situation, the flow of goods and people will be blocked.
Economic front needs strengthening
A check-point in the northern port city of Hai Phong.
Since the epidemic broke out, Vietnam has learned a lot of traumatic experiences from disruption of production and goods circulation. For example, the northern port city of Hai Phong did not open for workers and goods from the epidemic-hit city of Hai Duong during the epidemic in January 2021 and this heavily hit people and businesses in Hai Duong.
After that, when Hai Phong was hit by Covid-19, its neighboring province of Quang Ninh did not receive people and vehicles from Hai Phong. This time, Hai Phong authorities sent an official letter requesting the government of Quang Ninh to consider the decision because of the congestion in goods circulation.
Economic activities have been affected by anti-epidemic measures.
Disbursement of investment capital from the State budget in the first half of the year reached 29% of the yearly plan, down 34% year on year.
The service sector faced many difficulties because restaurants and on-site food service establishments, and passenger transport were halted under the implementation of social distancing in some localities. The growth rate of the service sector in the first half of 2021 was 3.96%, the lowest in more than 10 years.
Vietnam has set two economic development scenarios for 2021.
Scenario 1: a growth rate of 6%, under the condition that the epidemic is basically controlled in July, and there are no outbreaks in industrial zones and key provinces and cities, no social distancing. According to this scenario, Vietnam must obtain a growth rate of 6.2% in the third quarter, 0.5 percentage points lower than the goal set in Resolution 01/NQ-CP and 6.5% in the fourth quarter, 0.2 percentage points lower than the goal in Resolution 01/NQ-CP.
Scenario 2: a growth rate of 6.5%, provided that the Covid-19 epidemic is basically controlled in June, there are no outbreaks in industrial zones and key provinces and cities, no social distancing. According to this scenario, Vietnam must obtain a growth rate of 7% in the third quarter, 0.3 percentage points higher than the goal set in Resolution 01/NQ-CP and 7.5% in the fourth quarter, 0.8 percentage points higher than the goal in Resolution 01/NQ-CP.
The Prime Minister has affirmed that Vietnam has not changed the growth target, and the dual goal (epidemic control and economic development) must be achieved.
In the context that many provinces have implemented blockades and social distancing, what should be done so that goods circulation and production can continue so that Vietnam is not interrupted from the global supply chain?
Vietnam needs long-vision scenario
Many provinces have recorded locally-infected cases in the community and anticipate that the epidemic can break out at any time, and it will spread very quickly, so they need faster, clearer, more drastic and synchronous solutions and early preparation.
It is necessary to answer the question of whether people who have been vaccinated and have negative test results should be allowed to travel.
The capacity of the public service system and public resources is limited. It is hard to fight the epidemic while maintaining the minimum functioning of society and preventing the resources and social-economic systems from being exhausted, so it is necessary to have a plan based on locally available resources.
In the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic in this new period, the most difficult thing is not to be confused and not to panic. And the plan must have a vision for half a year, a whole year, not just a few weeks or a few months, and the most challenging thing is to make the entire system run smoothly under epidemic conditions.
From July 9, Ho Chi Minh City entered 15 days of social distancing under Directive 16 of the Prime Minister. This is a valuable time for Vietnam’s largest metropolis to find new strategies to 'live together' with the Covid-19 epidemic.
It is necessary to have new approaches in fighting Covid-19 as per the PM’s direction – being more proactive, switching from defense to attack, applying technology, and applying rapid and proactive testing and vaccinations at lightning speed.