By Phan Nhu Uyen — Correspondent
Vietnam was ranked second-best worldwide in handling the coronavirus pandemic, with 1,465 laboratory-confirmed cases and 35 deaths by the end of the 2020.
With the spread of the Delta variant approaching the Southeast Asian country in late April 2021, paired with the low vaccination rate, the country became the epi-center of the new outbreak. The number of cases soared roughly 471,000 in four months, from 1,942 to 473,350 cases from May 1st to September 1st. By September 27th, the recorded cases were 766,051 cases.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and the entire southern region of Vietnam have been in lockdown since July.
Do Quyet, a Director of Vietnam Military Medical University, said not all patients can be hospitalized due to the high number of active cases. “The pandemic is becoming more serious in Ho Chi Minh city and many COVID-19 patients will have to receive treatment at home. So, we are forming mobile medical teams to come help them at their homes,” said Quyet.
As of July 19th, Southern Vietnam implemented Directive 16, while Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, commenced on July 24th. Directive 16 mandates the closures of all non-essential businesses, bans public gatherings of more than two people and severely restricts transportation services. Other nationwide measures, including the use of facemasks in public and six feet apart, remain.
Authorities also called in the army to help distribute food and provide aid to households.
Starting September 6th in Hanoi, the government divided the city into three zones in decreasing order of COVID-19 transmission risk — red, orange, and green zones. The red zone includes 15 districts that strictly follow Directive 16. The orange zone comprises five districts and bans gatherings of 10 or more people. The green zone consists of suburbs with less strict measures.
Authorities closed all roads connecting the red zone to other regions to limit traveling into the high-risk area. In addition, police set up checkpoints to enforce the restriction.
Stevie Duke, a YouTube vlogger who lives in Tan An province, 25 miles southwest from HCMC, said the authorities blocked all the roads to his house. “At first, the North was the one who got hit hard, and then it moved down to Ho Chi Minh city. We are relying on Ho Chi Minh city to lift the restriction so we can get back to normal here in Tan An province,” said Duke.
Hoang Phu, a high school senior, said he was lucky to return to HCMC despite the strict restriction in the metropolitan area. “I lived with my grandparents in my hometown during the first outbreak. I was lucky to get back to the city to stay with my parents before the government tightened the lockdown rules again,” said Phu.
“I live in a small alley in Ho Chi Minh city. The authorities got barriers and checkpoints to block the entrance of the alley to prevent transmission. They would bring things back to the house of the leader of the alley, and then volunteers would distribute vegetables and food,” he added.
Thuy Nhien, a college freshman who is studying abroad in Singapore, shared the same experience from living in an alley in HCMC. “In the first two weeks, my family did not receive any support from the government at all. In the first week, there was a shortage of vegetables and meat. But, by the third week, they gave too much. The vegetables that were left for a long time quickly spoiled,” said Nhien.
Van Vu, a Vietnamese YouTube vlogger, volunteered to help distribute food to people during the Delta variant. “It was very hard to see people living in poor conditions and struggling to have food on the table. And, I am here, getting vaccinated, still having a job, and eating three meals a day. It is a privilege that I have and I do not want to take it for granted,” said Vu.
“There are students from the provinces who went to the city to study and got stuck here. They cannot afford to pay the rent and cannot even live with their parents,” said Nhien.
“This is a challenging time for all of us and there are people who need help out there,” said Vu.