Tens of thousands of people, mostly migrant workers, left Ho Chi Minh City over the weekend as the largest metropolis in Vietnam eased a months-long COVID-19 lockdown, triggering fears of labor shortages and more disruption to manufacturing.
The mass exodus comes as the city and its nearby industrial provinces struggle to ensure sufficient workers to help revive the country’s economy, which posted a record GDP slump in the third quarter due to COVID-19 curbs.
“We left our home behind for the city in search for better jobs, but now we are tired,” 32-year-old Tran Thi Them said as she lined up for a compulsory COVID-19 test before leaving.
“We are going home to farm and raise cattle,” she said as she headed to her village in Dong Thap province in the Mekong River Delta with her husband and their eight-month-old baby.
Them lost her job at a garment factory in July, when the city began imposing curbs, and has been confined to her small rented room amid restrictions on leaving the house.
Nearly 90,000 people have left Ho Chi Minh City since Friday, state media reports show, on worries they would get stuck again if there was another wave of infections. The city eased curbs from late Thursday.
“Please don’t leave, and stay to work,” the city’s People’s Committee vice chairman Le Hoa Binh said. “The city is facing serious labor shortages.”
Such shortages would add to the woes of labor-intensive businesses that are already struggling due to the lockdown.
“We are facing a huge labor shortage,” a sub-contractor of Coteccons Construction JSC said from Ho Chi Minh City on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to media. “We have only 60 percent of the labor force needed for our projects, and it’s difficult to recruit more workers now.”
Suppliers for Nike Inc and Adidas AG suspended operations in Vietnam earlier this year. Nike has cut fiscal sales expectations for next year and warned of holiday delays.
Buyers of Apple Inc’s new iPhone 13 face delivery times that are longer than expected because of the outbreak in Vietnam, where components for the device’s new camera module are assembled.
Fashion brands have also been turning away from low-cost manufacturing hubs in Asia.
Vietnam has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Southeast Asia, with less than 11 percent of its 98 million people having received at least two doses.
The country reported 808,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 19,700 related deaths, with Ho Chi Minh City accounting for nearly half of the cases and 77 percent of deaths.
“We are heading home as that is a safer place,” Them said.
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