Hanoi university students endure semi-lockdown

By Duong Tam, Thanh Hang   August 18, 2021 | 08:00 pm GMT+7
Giang counts his number of instant noodle packages every day, worried he would have nothing left to eat.

Born in Vinh Town of central Nghe An province, Truong Giang, 22, is a final year student at a university in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District.

Since late April, when a new Covid-19 outbreak resurfaced, Giang has refrained from going home, afraid he might "bring the virus along." Instead, he has hunkered down in a studio on Tran Quoc Hoan Street.

Later, when he did want to return, Hanoi suspended passenger buses to and from Nghe An, then imposing a semi-lockdown, leaving Giang stranded in the capital.

At first, when the pandemic in his hometown was less complicated, Giang's parents sent food and vegetables to him every two weeks.

However, in late June, when Vinh Town entered semi-lockdown after recording many cases in the community, Giang’s parents could no longer send him food regularly.

Tran Thi Tuong Vy receives food from a teacher at her university. Photo courtesy of Hanoi Open University.

Tran Thi Tuong Vy receives food from a teacher at her university. Photo courtesy of Hanoi Open University.

Having no motorbike, Giang could only go shopping near his studio. But many vendors have stopped operating, forcing him to shop at a more expensive supermarket nearby.

To save money, he decided to eat less and mainly depend on instant noodles.

"When I am too hungry, I'll cook noodles with chicken," Giang said.

With only six packets of noodles and some minced pork and eggs left, he expects to buy more supplies after the next three days.

"Perhaps the pandemic will be prolonged - I just want to return to my hometown," Giang said.

Tran Thi Tuong Vy, a student at the Faculty of Economics, Hanoi Open University, is in the same situation. She has to calculate carefully to minimize her living cost.

Returning to her hometown in central Ha Tinh Province during the national holiday in late April and early May, Vy decided to return to Hanoi and complete her internship, which helps her pay rent.

However, when the city imposed a social distancing campaign on July 24, Vy cannot go to work anymore, losing her income.

"I can't work, but I still have to maintain my life here, cooking and paying bills. So I have to use my savings," she lamented.

In early August, when the city decided to use the dormitory where Vy was staying as a Covid-19 field hospital, she had to move out.

Knowing it would be difficult to rent a place and transfer her belongings, Vy asked to stay at a friend's house on Tam Trinh Street.

"Staying in a rental room means an increased living cost - electricity and water are charged at different prices," she said.

If she shares a room with another friend, it will cost around VND2 million ($87) a month, including rent and utilities, not to mention money to buy food and groceries, Vy said.

As her savings shrink, Vy is keeping a lookout for a cheaper room and an online job.

A student of Hanoi Hanoi University of Science and Technology receives food from a teacher while being stranded in a lockdown alley on Le Thanh Nghi Street. Photo courtesy of Hanoi University of Science and Technology.

A student of Hanoi University of Science and Technology receives food from a teacher while being stranded in a lockdown alley on Le Thanh Nghi Street. Photo courtesy of Hanoi University of Science and Technology.

Studying at the same university as Vy, Tran Van Quan, from central Thanh Hoa Province, is luckier because he can maintain a part-time job as an online designer.

However, he had to use his entire VND3 million August salary to pay rent and buy personal necessities.

Renting a room in Hoang Mai District, Quan has been stranded at a friend's house in Nam Tu Liem District after coming to visit him on the day Hanoi imposed its social distancing campaign.

The duo has been struggling with rocketing prices. Normally a cabbage costs VND10,000, now the price has doubled.

"I only go to the market once every five days, but I am worried I can't afford these food items until my next salary," he commented.

Learning about Hanoi Open University’s support program for students, Quan quickly asked for help. Teachers have since delivered necessities to his place.

"I hope the pandemic will be over soon so life could return to normal."

Not having too many difficulties, Sonxay Luangoudom, a doctoral student at the Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Hanoi University of Science and Technology, has faced mental strain during the semi-lockdown in Hanoi.

"All day, I just stay in the dormitory. Not being allowed to go out makes international students like us feel frustrated. Fortunately, teachers at the university have often called and emailed to check on us and showed support," the Laotian student said.

Hanoi now has thousands of students stranded in the semi-lockdown. Many of them stay back in the city to maintain their part-time jobs or participate in exams.

At Hanoi University of Science and Technology, around 1,800 students have remained behind, with the university operating a support campaign for those in dire need.

Teachers at Hanoi Open University have also supported its students by giving them rice, instant noodles.

After two weeks of implementing social distancing under the Directive 16, that requires people to stay home and only go out for necessities like buying food or medicines or to work at factories or businesses allowed to operate, Hanoi extended its social distancing campaign until Aug. 23.

As of Wednesday, the capital has recorded 2,591 Covid cases in the current outbreak, starting on April 27.

 
 
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