The “district level” Covid-19 regulations are being made based on administrative orders instead of scientific research. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has mentioned this issue because it greatly affects business activities in Hanoi.
A famous restaurant on Hang Dieu Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi at 3pm on January 18, 2022, was very quiet. There was not a single customer there. A carton board set in front of the restaurant read “Takeaway only”. Not far from the restaurant, another was crowded as it was allowed to sell food on the site. Why? It was located in the neighboring ward.
This shows the “gap” in the regulation banning on-site sales between wards of the same district.
Ensure equal business rights
Mr. Le Duy Binh, Executive Director of Economica research organization, said that in Ho Chi Minh City, the number of students going to school is currently over 90% in all districts. In addition to food services, karaoke, spa, massage, discotheque and bar/pub businesses have been allowed to reopen.
Meanwhile, students in more than 10 districts in Hanoi still study online. When Hanoi announced the outbreak at level 3, many districts had to stop direct sales, affecting tens of thousands of catering businesses and households.
Binh said: “This contrasting picture reflects the current situation between the two largest economic centers of the country. Also, it partly shows a very different level of adaptation to Covid-19 of the two cities after nearly three months implementing the Government’s Resolution 128.”
“In the current context, epidemic prevention and control measures need to be enacted in the spirit of ‘proactive, creative’ in order to find ways to adapt, to enhance the predictability of regulations from the authorities, to ensure business rights and economic space. That will be the best stimulus for businesses and business households, particularly the service, catering or education industry.”
Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga, former Director of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health, said that Hanoi’s issuance of regulations banning direct sales of food and drinks based on the epidemic level does not have much effect on the current situation.
“If people can’t eat here, they will run to another place. This regulation therefore wastes time of customers and makes it more difficult for the government to control. In my opinion, restaurants should be allowed to sell food and drinks on the site, but they must ensure distancing,” Mr. Nga said.
He also recommends removing the ban on selling food after 9pm, because the number of customers eating at night is very small.
Stop making decisions that go against Resolution 128
Mr. Hoang Quoc Khanh, Operation Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Group, told VietNamNet: “Humans are not as simple as a switch that can be turned on and off. In addition, because of banning on-site sales, revenue can drop by 90%, and thus the city’s revenues from VAT and corporate income tax will fall.”
He added that banning food and drink sales after 9pm does not have much meaning in terms of epidemic prevention, while it causes revenue for the entire F&B industry to fall by 40-50%.
“Businesses can endure for a period of time, but the prolonged ban will exhaust the F&B industry,” Khanh said.
Mr. Dau Anh Tuan, Head of the Legal Department under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), emphasized that it is contrary to Resolution 128 to ban restaurants from welcoming diners when they meet conditions on epidemic prevention and control.
Mr. Nguyen Hoang Nam, owner of a chain of coffee shops in Hoan Kiem district, said that the ban also causes negative sentiment about fairness in business, when restaurants located on the same street but on the opposite sides of the road, which belong to two different wards, have to operate under different rules.
He said: “The fact that restaurants have had to close and open continuously for several months has affected business owners as well as staff. Depression and fatigue are always there, which makes the opportunity to recover even more difficult.”
In the spirit of Resolution 128, the level of pandemic and the corresponding measures are very clear. Experts said that Hanoi needs to change its anti-epidemic mindset to reduce the burden on businesses and people.
“Measures to ensure the legal business rights of enterprises and business households will benefit them as well as the economy more than any economic stimulus package that is being discussed and implemented in the near future,” expert Le Duy Binh said.