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|Adam Sitkoff - Executive director American Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi|
Clearly, there are many unknowns regarding this virus, its prevalence in our community, how infectious it is relative to regular influenza, its true mortality rate, and more. Evolving travel restrictions around the world add to the many uncertainties about this situation, and there are certainly people who question whether enough consideration is being given to the risks of the disruption in our society as a result of this virus.
The economic implications of the coronavirus outbreak are severe and will impact us for quite some time. I expect to see additional travel restrictions, office closures, meeting and event cancellations, quarantine zones, and other types of disruption as more cases are announced here. Unfortunately, social distancing and other containment methods carry a large economic cost and the cumulative damage to Vietnam’s economy is rising.
Thousands of jobs have disappeared, many people have seen salaries cut, and business activity remains slow. Top challenges for AmCham members include travel disruptions, reduced staff productivity, increased costs, and significant drops in revenue and demand. It is still too early to determine the long-term impact of the coronavirus, but the financial pressure for many companies will be significant.
There are also other consequences from the social isolation. For example, school is the focal point of kids’ lives and daily interactions with teachers and classmates are critical for cognitive and emotional growth. Over four million children in Vietnam are in their ninth week of sitting around the house and experts are concerned that the closures and the consequent isolation from teachers and peers are actually greater sources of anxiety than the disease itself.
Like all VIR readers, I hope that things will get back to normal as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I am pleased that the Vietnamese government is taking serious and appropriate steps to contain the spread of infections. Authorities are reminding people to stay calm while they work to curb the outbreak by tracing the contacts of sick people and quarantining them. The government’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been effective and they have been responsible and transparent.
Vietnam is doing better than most other countries because of how seriously people take this issue here. I encourage the authorities to keep taking actions to prevent the spread of infection – even if it causes inconvenience to people. Once things are under control, organisations like AmCham and others will work with the government on ways to support and stimulate economic activity as many businesses and people are suffering from steep drops in demand and revenue.
We are trying our best to keep members informed during this crisis with conference calls and other methods. In addition, we are coordinating a blood drive in Hanoi soon with the Vietnamese National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion because blood supplies are running very low in Vietnam. Giving blood is safe and can make a big difference in the lives of others. Social distancing does not mean social disengagement and our members want to help.
AmCham members are committed to protect the health and safety of their employees by letting staff work from home, practicing social distancing, and maintaining a very clean environment. It is important to remember that this virus does not have arms and legs. It cannot move around on its own and needs people to help it spread. That is why it is very important for everyone to keep practicing good hygiene to protect yourself against infection. If you or someone you know experiences symptoms of the virus — fever, cough and difficulty breathing — immediately call Vietnam’s health hotline: 19003228. We will see people get impatient, especially when they are living in fear of disease and financial ruin. People will get sick. Fortunately, the great majority of people will recover. Many businesses will change or shut down, but things will eventually return to normal. We will see people having fun and socialising as well as the consumer demand and businesses rise again.
In the meantime, we all need to be supportive, kind, and smart. If we look after each other and use common sense, this virus will have nowhere to go. It needs us to move and if we do not help it, then the crisis will end. Together, we have the power to beat this virus.