Story by Phi Nhat-Ngoc Thuy-Thuy Duong

June 17, 2021

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Tim Evans, CEO of HSBC Vietnam, is conscious that people will not go back to life before the Covid-19 pandemic. All of the staff and employees at HSBC Vietnam had to adapt and at times they had over 90% of team members working from home which poses its own challenges. 

But Evans felt immensely lucky himself to have gone through the pandemic in the country because until recently their lives were business as usual. 

“Our friends and family looked on in envy as we continued to have a quasi-normal life in Vietnam with the ability to travel domestically, go into the office, go out for dinners and visit the gym,” he told The Hanoi Times.

For many across the world, many of these activities have been huge luxuries but for Evans and his team in Vietnam, they were able to enjoy them thanks to the speed with which the Vietnamese authorities and the people addressed the challenges of Covid-19 right at the very onset of the pandemic back in last February. 

 

Living in Vietnam since 2020, the bank’s executive and his family members enjoyed the local people’s hospitality, special dishes, and varied landscapes from beaches to mountains before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“And on a professional level, being able to be part of the exciting economic growth of Vietnam is also hugely stimulating,” he said.

Lynette Chong, Head of Strategic and Key Accounts at Gojek Vietnam, staying here from the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, said that the Covid-19 has been a great wake-up call for her. “The outbreak has changed the way we work and live, and I am no exception,” she told The Hanoi Times

“I have more time for myself and also more time at home. I have been cleaning my house and making dishes more often, which I had never been doing before, reading more and spending less money,” she said. 

Chong’s company, Gojek Vietnam, was one of the very first companies in Vietnam to activate the work from the home scheme since early last year. As a tech company, they have had management tools that do not only ensure productivity but also create a “human touch” experience for employees when working remotely.

 

Chong said many activities have been organized via camera-on Zoom meetings and they have never had missed any monthly online all-employee meeting.  

Every time there was a new wave of Covid-19 in Vietnam, Indonesia’s startup unicorn has immediately activated the business continuity plan, including a succession plan and delegation of duties, to contain all risks and avoid disruption to the business. 

Gojek has more than 200,000 driver-partners and thousands of merchants in its ecosystem, not to mention millions of users who use transport, package delivery, and food delivery services on a daily basis, ensuring the safety of everyone has never been easy, Chong added.

“But we have been handling it quite well while supporting our partners to protect their livelihoods. This was thanks to advanced technology, stringent processes as well strong leadership, and the good heart of the team,” she said.

 

As the Vietnamese Government demanded facemask wearing and gathering restrictions among the people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the expats have mostly complied with the regulations as a way that they expressed their love to the country and its people.

Adam Sitkoff, Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hanoi, though having lived in Vietnam for 20 years, for the first time had to stay at home for a long period in compliance with the Hanoi authority’s prevention rules. 

He was a witness to the drastic measures conducted by the local authorities to fight against the pandemic.

“It has been almost 17 months since the virus arrived in Vietnam and authorities continue to test, contact trace, and isolate large numbers of people as the country battles its worst Covid-19 outbreak,” he said and felt confident in the government's ability to contain the spread of the virus.

“But it depends on cooperation from all of the people,” he told The Hanoi Times.

 

CEO of HSBC Vietnam Evans shared his own family experience in which his children adapted to the new world very quickly and were always the first to remind him to put the mask on when he left the house and to wash his hands when he came home.

Recalling the first wave of the virus coming from Wuhan, Evans did not for one moment think it would escalate into a global pandemic. He was little surprised by the swift actions taken by the authorities back in February-March 2020. 

“Their speed of action was clearly the right approach and ensured that Vietnam did not suffer the same lockdowns that many European countries were forced to endure,” he said. 

“The ability to isolate and lockdown areas, test people quickly and restrict international travel clearly benefited the country as evidenced by the fact that Vietnam was one of only three countries in Asia that showed positive GDP growth.”

 

He underlined that this was proof of the right approach, protecting large parts of the economy and people’s lifestyles without going into protracted lockdowns.  

Meanwhile, Chong from Gojek said that Vietnam has been responding very fast and efficiently when she is witnessing other countries being on the verge of a medical crisis.

The situation is more challenging in 2021 but with experience and strategic approach, as well as the awareness and “5K compliance” of all citizens, Chong said she believed the situation will be under control very soon in Vietnam. 

“Everyone has guidance to follow and I feel like the whole system, especially those that have been working hard in the frontline, has been decisively joining hands to keep ourselves and the community safe,” she said.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic is seen as an obstacle testing the endurance of the Vietnamese Government and people in the process of socio-economic development. All efforts have been taken to ensure the country an attractive and safe destination for foreign organizations, businesses, and expats.

Vietnam has gone through three waves of Covid-19 since early last year and is struggling with the fourth one with a high determination to stamp out the outbreak as soon as possible.

The country will certainly once again overcome it - just because of the right directions thoroughly carried out from the Government to localities in grassroots, the tireless efforts of frontline officials, health workers, and others involved in the Covid-19 prevention and control, and the unanimity of people as well.

Yidan Hwa, an expat from China witnessing strict control on Covid-19 in Hanoi, said to The Hanoi Times that local people are mostly cooperative to wearing masks and avoid gathering as they are aware of the serious spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Timely manner being taken in different aspects, which explains why Vietnam has been so successful on Covid-19 control compared globally,” she added. “So I felt safe.”

Vietnam is one of the safest countries now globally in terms of the Covid-19 situation, she added. 

Elizabeth Hobbs, a Canadian Montessori teacher, said she was eager to meet her little students again after months of school closure. “All planned work projects canceled to date with the poor outlook for the rest of 2021,” she said. “As the Covid-19 pandemic is resolved, I would stay long term.” 

Looking forward, Evans from HSBC Vietnam said that the brand of Vietnam was already very positive before the Covid-19 crisis and has only been further enhanced by how the country has handled the challenges.

“Despite the challenges that we face today, the future is still very appealing,” he affirmed.

 

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