HCM City businesses eager to resume, but regulation, worker availability worries linger

September 25, 2021 - 07:56

HCM City businesses are eager and preparing to reopen after months of closure due to stringent social distancing orders, but continue to face challenges from tough regulations and staff shortages.


A business based in HCM City’s Saigon Hi-tech Park arranges accommodation for workers to ensure it can sustain production. Businesses in the city are eager to resume production after September 30, focusing on digital transformation to adapt to life after the pandemic. – Photo baotintuc.vn

HCM CITY – HCM City businesses are eager and preparing to reopen after months of closure due to stringent social distancing orders, but continue to face challenges from tough regulations and staff shortages.

HCM City, the country’s COVID-19 epicentre, is focusing on gradually reopening while also ensuring safety, and its strict preventive measures are expected to be relaxed after September 30 if the outbreak is under control.

Lê Duy Toàn, director of Duy Anh Foods Import Export Co. Ltd, said his company had been closed since mid-July and had to postpone export orders.

Businesses are struggling after having to temporarily close down or meet the expenses of employees’ accommodation, food and COVID tests while also limiting production, he said.

“If the city does not reopen, the situation will worsen in the coming months,” he told Việt Nam News.

“I would like nothing more than for my business to be able to resume production after September 30.”

Phạm Thị Kim Hằng, founder of environment - friendly products supplier Limart – Zero Waste, told Việt Nam News her shop had to close down but still pay staff wages.

It also lost customers since it was unable to deliver online orders, though recently it had been able to resume deliveries after the city eased some travel restrictions.

Dr Trần Hoàng Ngân, director of the HCM City Institute for Research and Development, said the city could not enforce strict social distancing orders forever and would have instead to adapt to the pandemic.

Trần Việt Anh, chairman of Thủ Đức City Business Association, said especially export businesses in key fields such as textile and garment and electronics need to resume operations quickly to not lose customers to foreign competitors.

Opportunities for recovery

Trịnh Tiến Dũng, general director of Đại Dũng Metallic Manufacture Construction and Trade Corporation, said there were a lot of opportunities for businesses returning to the market, but they would have to change their management and operations.

His company, which incurred heavy losses last year, had been investing in new sectors and focusing on digital transformation and risk management to continue doing business with overseas customers, enabling it to continue operations despite the COVID difficulties, he said.

Hằng’s business is also focusing on launching applications as part of digital transformation to improve its online activities so that it can operate efficiently amid the pandemic.

Many businesses, especially retailers, also prioritise vaccination against COVID, and their staff have received two shots.

They also have safety equipment and comply with safety regulations.

HCM City’s Steering Committee for Pandemic Prevention and Control has issued a set of safety criteria for businesses, including requirements such as COVID-19 green cards for staff to certify their immunity and social distancing at the workplace.

Businesses need to assess their preparedness and notify local authorities, who will inspect and evaluate them before permitting resumption.

The HCM City Power Corporation will offer electricity at a discount to businesses to help them recover.

Problems with returning

Many businesses are concerned with some of the requirements.

For instance, they have to test their staff every seven days and those considered high-risk, every three days.

“The cost of COVID-19 tests for staff is a large burden and many businesses are worrying about it, not just mine,” Toàn of Duy Anh Foods said, hoping for more favourable policies regarding it.

However, he said that when his business could resume operations, personnel would be a problem since a number of employees had returned to their home provinces, and that it would have to plan its future production activities accordingly.

Other businesses that have been having workers live on-site are seeing them getting fatigued and wanting to go home.

Toàn hoped the city would soon announce specific plans and schedules for reopening its economy after September 30 since businesses would need time to make preparations to resume.

Hằng said not many people could get green cards since they had yet to receive their second shots.

“Resuming operations while the pandemic is still not completely under control can also negatively affect workers’ morale since they are still afraid and may be reluctant to return to work.”

Nevertheless, businesses are in agreement that all their staff should have green cards since it would mitigate the risk of disease spread and reassure people working in proximity to one another.

Businesses have also asked for tax breaks and low-interest loans to help them recover.

Hằng said: “Policies from the State to assist businesses in whatever way is very necessary now since for the past few months us small to medium-sized businesses have been incurring heavy losses. Activities to stimulate sales will be needed.”

Phạm Đức Hải, deputy head of the city Steering Committee for Pandemic Prevention and Control, said authorities would consider subsidising the high COVID test fees. – VNS