Returnees get warm welcome in Mekong Delta

By Hoang Ha   October 10, 2021 | 11:55 am GMT+7
Migrant workers returning from industrial hubs to their hometowns have volunteers making food for them to eat and strangers helping them.

Tran Thuong decided to ride her motorbike from Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Thap Province in the Mekong Delta on Oct.3. The 25-year-old worker did not carry much with her, but the journey to her hometown was smooth.

She had heard she would be isolated at home if she had received a Covid vaccine and had a negative test result, but it turned out all returnees had to quarantine.

"It was disappointing at the time," she says.

But the enthusiastic reception from people in her hometown has been a great source of comfort. She and others were accompanied by Dong Thap police, who divided them into groups based on where they lived in the province.

Thuong says: "There are volunteers who stay up all night to welcome back people. At 9 p.m. the medical workers skipped their dinner to collect my sample."

Migrants wait at a checkpoint in HCMCs Binh Chanh District to return to Mekong Delta provinces, Oct. 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpresss/Quynh Tran

Migrants wait at a checkpoint in HCMC's Binh Chanh District to return to Mekong Delta provinces, Oct. 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpresss/Quynh Tran

Since Oct. 1, after HCMC and other southern localities eased their long lockdowns, there has been an en masse departure by people from cities to their hometowns.

As of Oct. 5 more than 30,000 had returned to An Giang, 40,000 to Soc Trang, 19,000 to Dong Thap, and 20,000 to Kien Giang.

To ensure people return safely, locals and frontline workers in the provinces have been working untiringly for days.

"Since Oct.1, I have only had a bath once and have not changed clothes, but no one has noticed because I wear protective gear," Ton Long Vinh, 27, a volunteer from Luong Phi Commune in An Giang’s Tri Ton District, said.

The members of his commune team sleep one or two hours a day.

They are stationed in Long Xuyen Town, where their task is to collect information about returnees and their vehicles and report to local authorities, help regulate traffic and encourage people to follow prevention measures.

By Oct. 5 ,his volunteer team had handled nearly 6,000 people.

"My heels are swollen from walking for days," Vinh says. He is exhausted, but seeing people struggling to return home he cannot but help them.

He hopes there will be more volunteers to fix flat tires so that people can travel faster.

Vinh comforts a baby in a quarantine facility at An Giang University, Oct. 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of Ton Long Vinh

Vinh comforts a baby in a quarantine facility at An Giang University, Oct. 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of Ton Long Vinh

Vinh has had some unforgettable encounters during this period. On Oct. 5, when he was with a group of motorbike riders, he met a man with a four-year-old boy who said: "Mom, let's come home with me."

Vinh then learned that the child's mother had died of Covid-19, her ash jar was in the motorbike's basket, so the baby told her to come with him.

Tran Truc Linh, vice chairwoman of Luong Phi Commune, said 383 people had returned to their home in the commune as of Oct. 4, and most have been isolated at home because they have had two shots of vaccines and tested negative for Covid.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has directed Mekong Delta provinces to coordinate with each other to control people entering and leaving these localities, and take them to their hometowns safely.

Vo Minh Tien, deputy secretary of Phu Tho Ward in Binh Duong Province’s Thu Dau Mot Town, said local leaders have visited migrant workers’ homes to encourage and support those in need.

"I meet people leaving for their hometowns and encourage them to stay. Many have promised that when things get better they would return to Binh Duong to work".

Porridge cooked by Nhu and her friends at a quarantine facility in Tran De Secondary School, Soc Trang Province, Oct. 4, 2021. Photo courtesy of Ho Nguyen Quynh Nhu

Porridge cooked by Nhu and her friends at a quarantine facility in Tran De Secondary School, Soc Trang Province, Oct. 4, 2021. Photo courtesy of Ho Nguyen Quynh Nhu

For the past few days Ho Nguyen Quynh Nhu, 27, of Kinh Ba Commune in Tran De District, Soc Trang Province, has been busy since 5 a.m. going to the market and cooking 300-600 servings of porridge with her neighbors to feed people in quarantine after returning from Saigon, Binh Duong, Dong Nai, and other places.

"They are very poor, they do not have money to pay for food," she said.

The returnees have taken with them a fear of Covid infection. Dong Thap has found 176 of them infected, while in Soc Trang the number is 195.

There are also other potential problems.

Economist Nguyen Tri Hieu pointed out that finding jobs for people returning from the city to the countryside would be very difficult, and local governments should find temporary jobs for them to earn a living.

"When the pandemic is under control and businesses in the cities have appropriate support policies, the workers will return."

 
 
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