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HCM City to speed up vaccination drive, assist businesses affected by outbreak

HCM City authorities will continue to support the business community affected by the pandemic and speed up the vaccination drive, Nguyen Van Nen, secretary of the city Party Committee, said during an online conference on Thursday.

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Nguyen Van Nen (middle), secretary of HCM City Party Committee, chairs an online conference on measures to support businesses affected by the pandemic on Thursday. — VNS Photos Bo Xuan Hiep

Nen said the city has set a target to vaccinate two-thirds of the city’s population by the end of the year. “Due to limited vaccine supply, people on the priority list will be vaccinated first.”

The city has encouraged the business community to work with the Government to speed up the mass vaccination programme by connecting with suppliers to ensure optimal conditions. 

The Health Ministry will assist in quality control and vaccination procedures.

Vietnam is expected to receive 31 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from US firm Pfizer in the second half of the year, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry is also working with other suppliers, including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik V and Sinovac.

The country began its vaccination drive in March, using the AstraZeneca vaccine from the UK. 

Four Vietnamese-made vaccines are currently under development. If successful, locally made vaccines will be available in the next quarter of 2021, according to Nen.

More than 140,000 people working on the frontlines in the city have received the locally made Covid-19 vaccines. 

Businesses’ recommendations

Many businesses in the city said they have been severely affected by the pandemic, especially since the fourth wave. 

They said the consequences include access to customers, imbalanced cash flow, and interruption of supply chains. Many have had to reduce their workforce, stop operations, or declare bankruptcy.

Small- and micro-size businesses and young businesses less than three years old, as well as tourism-related businesses, have suffered the most. 

These businesses need Government support packages, particularly relaxation or deferment of value-added taxes, corporate income tax and land rental fees. 

Nguyen Dang Hien, vice president of the HCM City Food Association, said the cost for food hygiene and safety and pandemic prevention measures have increased sharply since the outbreak.

“The most important solution now is to vaccinate all the workers,” he noted.

Do Phuoc Tong, chairman of the HCM City Mechanical and Electrical Association, said: “Vaccinations are the only solution to current production problems. All other measures such as preferential loan support and tax extension or reduction are not enough.”

Last year the country witnessed a record number of businesses withdrawing from the market, exceeding 100,000 firms, according to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

While waiting for the vaccines, businesses must change their strategies, retrain human resources, pay more attention to the domestic market and diversify their consumption market and supply sources, experts have said.

Since the fourth wave beginning on April 27, the city has recorded more than 500 community-transmitted cases, mostly related to the Go Vap District cluster (more than 400 cases), as of June 10. 

The city applied 15 days of social distancing from May 31 in accordance with Government Directive 15 for the entire city, and Directive 16 for Go Vap District and Thanh Loc Ward in District 12.

“The city has basically contained the current outbreak,” Nguyen Thanh Phong, chairman of the city People’s Committee, said, adding that the unpredictable development would continue to affect the business community.

According to the city Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, since the beginning of the year, 1,365 businesses in the city have been affected, with more than 42,500 workers losing their jobs and 410 enterprises in urgent need of preferential loans for wage payments to workers. 

As many as 2,274 enterprises completed dissolution procedures in the first five months of the year (up 4.99 per cent year-on-year), and 9,308 enterprises temporarily suspended operations (up 22.99 per cent year-on-year). 

Second financial relief package

In a related issue, the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has announced that the city government is working on a second financial relief package for businesses and workers affected by the pandemic.

Tourism, transport and small and medium-sized businesses, teachers, laid-off workers and informal sector workers will be beneficiaries of payments that will be made between now and the end of the year.

Le Minh Tan, director of the department, said it was working with authorities in 21 districts and Thu Duc City to compile a list of affected businesses and laid-off and informal sector workers who are eligible to receive the payments.

The department has proposed paying workers laid off for at least a month due to the pandemic monthly relief payments of VND1.8 million ($78), he said.

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Business representatives suggest solutions to help them survive the outbreak during an online conference on measures to support businesses affected by the pandemic on Thursday.

The department last year allocated VND611 billion ($26.5 million) and VND181 billion ($7.85 million) for businesses and informal sector workers in the first relief package.

More than 20,500 lottery ticket sellers received more than VND20 billion ($869,400).

HCM City’s total retail sales of consumer goods and services in the first five months were up 8.9 per cent year-on-year, according to city authorities. Accommodation and catering services sales increased in the period by 30.8 per cent year-on-year.

Exports reached $19.63 billion in the first five months, up 15.1 per cent year-on-year. Total state budget revenue was estimated at more than VND174 trillion, up 22.8 per cent year-on-year.

VNS  

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