Economic Reopening Needs Concerted Coordination

10:09:14 AM | 9/17/2021

Anticipating that it is very difficult to completely control the Covid-19 epidemic in the short term, Vietnam should carefully consider and prepare for reopening the economy and live with the epidemic in the coming time.

Conditions for economic reopening

Currently, vaccination leaders in the region such as Singapore or Thailand have reopened their economies and accepted to live with the epidemic, partly because they know that it is almost impossible to achieve absolute herd immunity and the economic loss from prolonged lockdowns is too high.

Currently, countries that reopened their economies have adopted measures to reduce the size and level of social gatherings in order to minimize exposure to Covid-19 infections. Otherwise, reopening the economy will face the risk of widespread infection and serious social consequences.

Basically, the reopening should be carefully considered in two  key aspects: economically and socially.

Economically, this depends on production capacity and equipment of enterprises amid strict restrictions to control the epidemic. Even after the reopening starts, companies in most fields will have to change their ways of doing business, for example applying physical distancing among employees and customers, equipping space separators, reducing the size of group visitors, minimizing face-to-face communication, and using more technology.

Thus, the number of workers in industrial parks and factories will have to be reduced significantly, the number of passengers on planes, coaches, and restaurants will also have to decline likewise, while expenses for operations and factories will not decrease accordingly, resulting in an increase in operating costs in the business.

On the other hand, workers will have to be tested for Covid-19 regularly to meet the government's epidemic control requirements. This will also increase the burden on employees and employers.

Socially, this is the acceptance rate that the government and the community are willing to accept for Covid-19 infections and mortality. With the presence of the new strain - Delta, most countries in the world, including vaccination leaders like the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore, find it difficult to control infections in the community, but hospitalization and death rates are under control. Most hospitalized patients have not been vaccinated.

Thus, instead of being treated equally, people with one and two vaccination shots should be more socially and productively engaged than unvaccinated ones. Passports should be immediately available to fully vaccinated persons and they will be able to engage more actively in economic activity to minimize the current level of damage caused by supply chain disruptions.

Prioritizing essential occupations

Wholesale markets, supermarkets, logistics services, medical services and public administration should be prioritized to open first. These areas greatly affect social stability and the well-being of people. It will be difficult for people to accompany the government's efforts in epidemic prevention if basic needs for food and healthcare are interrupted.

Next will be manufacturing industries and leading industrial parks that employ a lot of workers and drive economic activity to avoid more serious disruptions. After workers return to their hometowns, it will be difficult for them to return to work as it takes time and money.

Businesses need support in tax, factory rental, logistics costs and testing costs. Meeting strict production requirements for long-term epidemic prevention and control requires practical support from the government to help businesses restart production, thus helping stabilize the economy after nearly three months of serious interruption.

Concerted actions

The unification of epidemic prevention measures in all provinces and cities is very important in ensuring distribution and manufacturing of goods. Recently, when freight trucks enter some provinces, they have to reload freight to other trucks with different drivers, causing higher cost and time, hurting business plans and delivery schedules. Major cities will not be able to function properly if neighboring provinces do not coordinate in opening efforts.

It is possible to accept some differences in epidemic prevention measures to suit local healthcare capacity, but we need to identify service industries that require high interconnectivity among localities to take inter-provincial solutions and have consistent top-down measures. Doing so, we can guarantee gradual economic reopening and effective epidemic control in the new context.

By Dr. Pham Cong Hiep , RMIT University