News from Vietnam said that the country continued to make very strong efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
But reading news like “Haiphong makes Hai Duong difficult,” than many places “closed” not allowing Hai Duong’s trucks to pass through, or about blocking vegetable trucks of the farmers just because they were from “infected” areas, people living outside of Vietnam cannot help but feel sad and worried.
Perhaps the local officials are so enthusiastic about their “anti-pandemic” achievements, treating the Covid like fighting the enemy, chasing their compatriots just because they were suspected of being Covid patients but forgot the general picture: The world is on a roadmap to reopen its economy through mass vaccination, vaccine passports, and digital businesses.
My friend, a Vietnamese American, who came back to the home country to celebrate the Lunar New Year and went back to the US, told me that quarantine in Vietnam is currently “the toughest in the world“: 21 days in a camp, and another two weeks at home.
Meanwhile, he had a completely negative test every time he boarded the plane. And back to the US, all he needed to do is stay at home and isolate himself.
Another friend who traveled from Hanoi to Singapore sent a photo of the empty Noi Bai airport, “the restaurants have no clients” which is very painful for many people working in the national aviation industry.
Earlier this week, the European Union (EU) said in March, President Ursula von der Leyen will plan to issue a “vaccine passport” which is essentially an electronic code to confirm who has been vaccinated, for the entire block.
Imagine that hundreds of millions of people in the EU will gradually have the right to travel, but Vietnam’s airports are still closed cold, then tourism will ever recover?
The game ahead is selective vaccination and selective relaxation of economic professions.
And information policy is always very important.
I believe that if Vietnam declares priority vaccination for all airline and airport service staff, that message will spread quickly to millions of tourists who want to come to Vietnam this year.
If visitors from the EU come, will they still have three weeks of concentrated isolation if they have a “vaccine passport“?
Vietnam does not seem to be clear about welcoming guests, the press reports on the “vaccine passport” in a semi-doubtful fashion, possibly because of a lack of information and because of being too shy.
In addition, the mentality of “very proud of Vietnam“, and even multiplied the achievement of pandemic halting to highlight the superiority of the regime, of the political model, to be honest, it only makes people outside sad.
Agreeing that dealing with pandemics is important, but as many countries have to admit, Covid-19 will gradually spread into the population and become flu, we will have to live with it … forever.
The idea of any country that wants to “clean up the Covid army” is actually not scientific and is still a bit naive, in the integration period of the global economy.
What about the situation outside?
Let us go through three examples that may be related to Vietnam.
UK “rapid vaccination” to open early
The UK is not only ahead of many EU countries thanks to rapid vaccination, by the end of February, but 20.6 million people have also received the first dose of vaccine (per 1/3 of the population) and have had a step-by-step open roadmap to recover the economy.
On June 21, the blockade law expires and by July 31, the entire population over 18 years of age will be vaccinated.
By the way, it is also necessary to write in order for all of you in Vietnam to be clear and not to misunderstand that the British government was lax in tracking and combating pandemics in early 2020.
For example, when the South African variant appeared, they sent troops and health care workers to each home in the suspected infection and tested them in front of the door.
The UK has recorded a very high death toll, it is said that over 140 thousand “Covid related” cases, but in terms of population, over 9 out of 10 people who died are over-aged residents, even too much.
According to BBC Health correspondent Nick Triggle, by the end of 2020, the number of Covid deaths in the UK in the under-44 group is less than 1%, and the average age of the dead victims is over 80.
Every death is extremely painful for the family, but at the same time, it is argued that Covid does not hit too hard on the working-age force, unlike the Spanish flu that killed millions of young Europeans in ancient times.
The anti-pandemic psychology in the UK is generally quite civilized, does not cause fear, emphasizes voluntariness.
After all, I see potential countries like the UK that take a lot of debt, and they will have strong economic growth to pay off quickly.
One example is the UK economy rebounding, growing to 16% in the third quarter of 2020 as soon as the government loosens quarantine and blockade regulations.
The economic picture of the UK has high public debt (280 billion pounds borrowed to spend on anti-pandemic) but there is also a bright spot.
News last week said that besides the two million unemployed and many million furloughs, another six million Britons saved tens of thousands of pounds by cutting travel and food expenses.
This accumulation of billions of pounds has the potential to create a “spending explosion” once the Covid-19 pandemic is reduced.
Southern European countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, Malta … are ready to welcome British tourists as soon as they are allowed to leave.
But British tourists are also very willing to travel far, to Southeast Asia, including Vietnam if the routes are restored.
The UK-Vietnam relationship is also waiting for the resumption of the bilateral trade signed after Brexit, and the UK’s supply of the first doses of vaccine to Vietnam will certainly help.
Singapore has always been wise to distance
In Southeast Asia, Singapore is at the forefront of its reopening strategy with the latest steps announced in early March.
Singaporean Vietnamese businessman Michael Nguyen told us:
“Singapore’s anti-pandemic budget was appropriately allocated from the start: direct relief to the people, business relief (short-term, immediate stability), comprehensive transformation of the digital economy (long, stable). They have a strategy and determination to fundamentally transform the economy into digitalization.”
“Again, Singapore is also going to forcefully close the door and lockdown as soon as the situation turns bad, but there is also a clear schedule of reopening in phases.”
According to Mr. Michael Nguyen, phase 3, which started on December 28, 2020, officially loosens most of the services and manufacturing industries.
“Overall, Singapore has been quick to invest in vaccines, deals with countries on vaccination passports to open the country. Allow citizens of well-controlled countries to enter Singapore without concentrated isolation.”
Mr. Michael Nguyen believes that Vietnam can learn a lot from Singapore’s anti-pandemic, which is strong, flexible, but does not have the mentality of “closing” all.
“Singapore clearly, transparently fight against pandemics, does not hide the pandemic when the dormitory of foreign workers becomes a source of infection, and at the same time, the ministries and branches are very well coordinated.”
“They also have initiatives to use information technology to trace infection, to be learned in Europe, the UK … as TraceTogether application software.”
“And from the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an initiative to create ‘green line/travel bubble’ – the corridor of travel, trade facilitating essential travel between Singapore and countries of the same model. The state also has signed contracts to ensure the supply of essential goods between countries such as New Zealand, the US.”
What about the US?
In America, the dark news about the number of deaths caused by Covid is still heavy with public opinion, but at the same time, the big companies, their financiers have been considering a recovery strategy.
An article by Ben Winck on February 20 outlines seven reasons the US economy will boom after Covid.
Looking at those reasons, I see population savings like “accidental savers” in the UK which the US calls “pent-up savings,” only in the US it’s a whopping $11 trillion.
In addition, the equally huge amounts were launched by the Biden government to re-stimulate spending.
People are talking about the “boomtime” or boom for the American economy at its greatest level since World War II.
Add to that “ballooning” assets: another $48 trillion, according to JPMorgan.
Bloomberg in the article “U.S. Economic Recovery Sustains Positive Momentum” (February 22) also pointed out very good figures for the US economy in the past and coming period.
Americans will buy a lot from the world, Vietnamese Americans will continue to send money to Vietnam, and the Vietnamese economy needs to create a waiting position in time to self-revive.
But most remarkable, in my opinion, is the lesson of the great American technology companies.
They saw the future, even embarking on restructuring the labor regime to lower costs: skilled professionals can now sit anywhere to contribute to Silicon Valley, and they will digitization continued AI programs, electric cars, and clean energy.
In the US, Canada, UK, Australia people are talking about the “virtual-first” world and architecture services, 3-D printed construction, design, medicine, even robotic surgery or medical examination and diagnosis from far away.
In short, a very new space is gradually appearing, not about stopping vegetable trucks, forcing people to walk through the woods to the countryside.
Even Whatsapp, Instagram can be forced to separate from Google is good news for the US labor market: they will hire thousands of employees in many countries.
It is unclear what Vietnam can learn or benefit from such great works.
In the short term, it is necessary to confirm that the anti-pandemic achievement is good, but if the economy dies, it is no longer an achievement.
It is important that the Vietnamese government and especially the media need to quickly prepare for step two, step three, with a roadmap of how to gradually reopen the international economy and trade.
To do it properly and seriously, the first thing is to change the mentality of considering Covid as a “plague” and treating the patient as a potential enemy. These behaviors were in wartime thinking.
The writer of this article does not deny that the pandemic has caused great pain, mourning across the globe, and knocking out many economies.
But what happened is what happened.
Now, any country that knows how to turn risks into action, soon take wise measures, gradually remove bottlenecks, speed up the transition through digital technology, and restructure the economy, will have a good future.