On Friday 20th March, EuroCham hosted a special webinar on “The Impacts of Coronavirus in Vietnam” with special guest speakers Dr Kidong Park, Representative of the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) in Vietnam; Dr Satoko Otsu, Team Lead of the WHO Health Emergency Program; and Mr Chung Le, Partner at Allens <> Linklaters.
Coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19, is having a significant impact on businesses and communities around the world, including here in Vietnam. This is a fast-moving, global issue and EuroCham wants to share the most up-to-date information with our members. One hundred people registered for this special webinar, hosted by EuroCham Vice-Chair Ywert Visser.
The View of the World Health Organisation in Vietnam
Dr Kidong Park, WHO representative in Vietnam, opened the session with a discussion of international health regulations, which are designed to control the spread of disease across borders. He described how each member state has a mandate to report the risk of spread to the WHO, which can then convene a committee of specialists. The WHO declared Covid-19 to be a “public health emergency” 30 days after it was first detected in China. To date, there have been more than 200,000 reported cases around the world. Therefore, it can be described as a “pandemic”; requiring all countries to scale-up their measures to prevent the spread of the infection. More than 20 candidates for a vaccine have been developed, and clinical trials are ongoing.
Dr Satoko Otsu, Team Lead of the WHO Health Emergency Program in Vietnam, was the second guest speaker in our webinar. She shared an update of the latest cases around the world, and remarked that there are now more new cases being recorded outside China than inside it. She said that Covid-19 is a pandemic which can be controlled: a comprehensive approach is needed but “containment” is still the major objective. People of any age can be infected with Covid-19. However, older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart and lung disease are more at risk of severe illness.
Turning to Vietnam, as of the 20th of March 2020, there were 85 confirmed cases. Dr Otsu said that Vietnam is taking serious measures to control Covid-19, describing it as a “Whole-of-Society” approach. For example, the Deputy Prime Minister is Chairing a “National Steering Committee” with the participation of multiple sectors. Furthermore, the Government has developed a “National Response Plan” for Covid-19, with numerous decisions, letters, and technical guidelines issued and updated. Cases are investigated by a “Rapid Response Team” and contacts are traced and followed up.
Vietnam has a “Five-Principle” strategy for tackling Covid-19: (i) prevention, (ii) early detection, (iii) isolation, (iv) case management, and (v) control of further transmission. Vietnam also has a “Four-Ring” quarantine system: The first ring involves quarantine and treatment at healthcare facilities for cases and their close contacts; the second involves centralised quarantine for close contacts of cases and their households; the third involves home quarantine for contacts of those in ring two; and the fourth involves a quarantine of the whole commune where multiple cases are reported.
Moreover, Vietnam has introduced a number of “point-of-entry” measures for international travel. It has temporarily suspended entry for foreigners travelling from or through many countries or regions. It also requires people to complete a health declaration form upon arrival. The objective of public measures in Vietnam can be described as “delay, prevent and care”. The aim is to slow the transmission and prevent the spread of the disease.
Dr Otsu then discussed the clinical picture of Covid-19: almost 80 per cent of positive cases show symptoms similar to the common cold. These include a fever, cough, and fatigue; with most people recovering after a week. She also shared advice for older adults and those with pre-existing conditions. This included keeping a distance of one-meter when greeting someone, encouraging visitors to wash their hands, and disinfecting surfaces at home. She concluded that governments should continue to detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilise people against Covid-19; and that the effective coordination of national and international partners, with regular communication across sectors and at all levels, was essential.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Business
Mr Chung Le from Allens <> Linklaters then spoke about the legal and contractual implications of Covid-19. He said that Covid-19 has had a significant economic and social impact in Vietnam, affecting all sectors and industries including manufacturing, healthcare and tourism. Turning to contractual matters, Covid-19 has raised the prospect of issues such as supply chain disruption, and Mr Le shared some fictional case studies to illustrate the problems that can arise between enterprises.
He also described the term “force majeure”: a concept which derives from civil law and which is used to “provide relief from non-performance following the occurrence of certain events which are outside the parties’ control and which make the contract impossible, difficult or onerous to perform.” Mr Le said that force majeure applies if either civil law or Vietnamese law governs a contract, whether it is written into the contract or not.
Force majeure means: “an unforeseen event or circumstance beyond the control of either of the parties and which, notwithstanding the exercise of any diligence by either party, could not have been foreseen or prevented.” However, under the law, parties must “give notice” of a force majeure event and have a “duty to mitigate”, in other words, to use all reasonable endeavors to minimise delay in the performance of the contract. In Vietnamese law, force majeure and its consequences are stipulated in laws such as the Civil Code and the Commercial Law. It is defined as: “an event which (i) occurs in an objective manner, (ii) is unforeseeable, and (iii) cannot be remedied although all permissible and necessary measures have been taken.”
Mr Le also introduced some other legal matters members might wish to consider. These included the statutory obligations of employers with respect to the health and safety of their employees, preparation for travel restrictions and quarantine, and alternative working arrangements.
EuroCham Vice-Chair Ywert Visser thanked all three presented and opened the webinar to questions from participants. The audience asked questions about issues such as the liabilities of employers, the impact on children, and how long the epidemic could last.
Members who were unable to join the webinar can still watch it here or download the slide here
Members might also wish to follow the latest updates of the WHO and Government of Vietnam at the following links