Hanoians out and about as shops reopen after Covid halt

By Long Nguyen, The AnhJune 22, 2021 | 09:15 pm PT
Hanoians are coming out in droves to eat at their favorite restaurants and get their hair cut as these businesses reopen after a month.

On Tuesday, Nguyen Thi Kieu Trang, an accountant at a company in Hai Ba Trung District, decided to take the morning off from work to have breakfast with her family at a pho restaurant before heading to her favorite hair salon.

"My hair has not been touched since April, so I have yearned for this day for months," she said while waiting for her pho bo (beef noodles).

In the restaurant, around 20 people, sitting with plastic dividers between their seats, ate their noodles amid the bustle of cooks and waiters who could not hide their happiness at the fact they could reopen.

Barbershops and restaurants have been allowed to start serving customers indoors from Tuesday.

Food and beverage establishments and salons and beauty parlors had been shut on May 25 as the city combated the latest wave of Covid-19, making it the longest closure since the pandemic first hit last year.

But they still cannot serve more than 20 people at a time, and so many people woke up early and waited to eat in their favorite restaurants.

Nguyen The Thanh, who arrived at a pho restaurant on Minh Khai Street at 6:15 a.m., 15 minutes before it opened, said: "The first thing I will do is have pho. I have not had it for more than a month. I think all Hanoians will go for pho today."

The 60-year-old, who was eating with his family, said his granddaughter could not hide her excitement after knowing she could go out for breakfast.

The online community joked that Tuesday was a "pho and coffee festival" for Hanoians who had only eaten home-cooked food or takeout for long.

Many restaurants, surprised by the number of patrons, sold out quickly.

A noodles restaurant on Tran Hung Dao Street stopped serving at 8:30 a.m. instead of the normal 10 a.m., saying it had run out of stuff.

Nguyen Thu Trang, its owner, said: "Wow! I was worried people would not come because they would be worried about Covid, but I was wrong. We will buy more ingredients to serve more people tomorrow."

Meanwhile, many others were busy having their hair cut in barbershops and salons across the capital.

"This barber shop opens at 9 a.m., but I went there at 8 a.m. and saw four people already waiting," Nguyen Thanh Huy, a customer at a shop on Lang Street, said.

He had immediately called the shop the previous night to make a reservation after knowing Hanoi authorities allowed salons to open.

At many places, the numbers of patrons were so high that many had to wait for hours to get their hair cut.

"I am thrilled to get back to work and can stop feeling I am useless," Nguyen Hoang Long, 20, a barber in Long Bien District, said.

He had around 18 customers on Monday, and earned more than VND2 million ($87.08).

A cook serves her patrons at a pho restaurant, June 22, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/The Quynh.

A cook serves her patrons at a pho restaurant, June 22, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/The Quynh.

Walking on eggshells

Hanoi authorities, after allowing barbershops and restaurants to open, warned that they must comply with Covid prevention guidelines.

They can only have 50 percent of their seats filled and not more than 20 people at a time, and have to close by 9 p.m.

Bars, pubs and beer places can only sell takeout.

Tran Dac Phu, former head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, warned last Saturday that outbreaks were still occurring in the country, and Hanoi could still be harboring infections within the community.

"The reopening needs to be done carefully with strict supervision, or we will be back to square one."

Hanoi has had 466 cases in the latest coronavirus wave that began at the end of April, including 149 in two hospitals that had to be locked down.

While enjoying their favorite services again, people also know that they are walking on eggshells, especially with the pandemic raging in other places in the country like Ho Chi Minh City and Bac Giang Province.

"I hope these restaurants and salons will not have to close again. The threat is still here," Trang said while wiping her seat and table in the restaurant with an alcohol pad.

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