Vietnam expects first-quarter GDP growth 1 percentage point below target due to China virus, Lunar New Year

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam’s gross domestic product growth in the first quarter of this year “will likely be one percentage point slower” than the 6.8% target due to China’s coronavirus epidemic and the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, the government said on Wednesday.

Vietnam’s aviation, tourism, agriculture industries and exports are expected to be hit by the epidemic, the government said in a statement. The epidemic has killed 490 people in China, Vietnam’s largest trading partner.

Vietnam can “sacrifice economic growth to protect people’s health and lives,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in the statement.

Despite the setback in the first quarter, Vietnam has not considered lowering the full year growth target for 2020, also set at 6.8%, Phuc said during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the statement said.

The government said last week that cross-border trade between Vietnam and China was “not encouraged” and on Sunday announced it would ban all flights to and from China over coronavirus concerns.

Vietnam confirmed an additional two cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, the health ministry said, bringing the total to 10.

Phuc urged government ministries to work out measures to restructure production to mitigate the impact of the epidemic, while continuing to fight the virus, the statement said.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam