HCMC – HCMC has to work out a proper scale of the social distancing order to ensure safety and must act to reopen now, Nguyen Van Nen, secretary of the municipal Party Committee, concluded after receiving feedback from economic and healthcare experts on the city’s reopening plan this morning, September 17.
Despite putting forward various viewpoints, the experts said society could no longer withstand the strain from the Covid pandemic. Therefore, the badly hurt economy is in urgent need of reopening, Nen said.
Given the current economic situation, it is high time for the city to make preparations to adapt to a new living environment where the Delta variant still exists, the municipal Party chief added.
Vu Thanh Tu Anh, dean of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, said it is a must for HCMC to reopen now. From an economic point of view, conducting mass testing for all residents in the city would prove too costly.
Besides, the negative impacts of the pandemic on the city’s GDP growth could linger for years. Businesses have become exhausted, while three-and-a-half months of fighting against the latest outbreak has wreaked havoc on the poor.
The municipal and central budget is also facing a problem. Anh added that the city’s costs to combat the pandemic remained high and the reopening plan needs to be executed at this time.
The Fulbright School representative said economic activity should be resumed step by step and the city has to prepare backup plans to cope with the new situation in a timely manner.
Associate Professor Dr. Tran Hoang Ngan, head of the HCMC Institute of Development Studies, said economic resumption would help with financial security in HCMC. If the city faces financial problems, its contribution to the national coffers would dwindle.
Economic expert Tran Du Lich said the city should not continue with contact tracing, an anti-virus measure taken during the previous outbreaks, and needs to make changes to effectively use the remaining resources in the Covid fight.
Both the city and businesses have seen their resources dry up after months of lockdown. The city will also face a shortfall of employees and a broken supply chain. Accordingly, the city should make thorough assessments in order to reopen the economy in the most determined manner, instead of reopening one day and closing the next, Lich added.
According to Le Truong Giang, chairman of the HCMC Public Healthcare Association, mobility restrictions have gained certain results as they have helped reduce case numbers. However, the city needs more drastic measures or has to change its view on the pandemic to prepare for reopening.
Giang said the Covid vaccine and medication are effective weapons to fight the coronavirus, but not Covid testing.
Echoing his viewpoint, other healthcare experts said the city should ramp up its vaccine rollout and conduct testing on a proper scale to slow the spread of the disease, reduce deaths and severe illness, and cushion the negative impact on socioeconomic growth.