Ho Chi Minh City plans to move past a containment strategy to focus on reviving the economy, with the health minister calling on recovered patients to help rebuild
HANOI, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Vietnam's coronavirus epicentre Ho Chi Minh City is proposing to emerge from a strict lockdown and resume economic activities from Sept. 15, shifting from its "Zero-COVID-19" strategy to living with the virus, according to a draft proposal.
The city of 9 million people is targeting a phased reopening of its economy and the full vaccination of its citizens by the end of this year, according to the draft seen by Reuters, which has yet to be endorsed.
Ho Chi Minh City last month deployed troops to enforce its lockdown and prohibited residents from leaving their homes to slow a spiralling rate of deaths. Just 2.9% of Vietnam's 98 million population has been fully vaccinated.
The draft proposes that the city, a business hub flanked by crucial industrialised provinces, moves past a containment strategy to focus on reviving the economy while maintaining stringent health protocols.
The city aims to "promote economic recovery ... and move towards living with COVID-19," the draft proposal said.
The reopening would be gradual, and low-interest loans and tax cuts would be offered to affected firms, it said.
Ho Chi Minh City alone has recorded 232,600 coronavirus infections and 9,724 deaths, representing half of the country cases and 80% of its fatalities.
The vast majority of those have come in recent months, marking the end of what was one of the world's best COVID-19 containment records, one it had hoped to preserve through quarantining and aggressive contact-tracing.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Wednesday warned Vietnam could be facing a lengthy coronavirus battle and cannot rely on lockdown and quarantines indefinitely.
Deputy health minister, Nguyen Truong Son called on recovered COVID-19 patients to help the city battle the epidemic.
"When you feel you are physically good enough, confident enough and want to contribute your efforts, you can register to join the fight," he said in an open letter on Friday. (Editing by Martin Petty)