Bac Giang hotspot workers trapped in Covid-19 limbo

By Thuy Quynh   May 26, 2021 | 02:28 am PT
Thousands of workers in Covid-19 epicenter Bac Giang have been surviving on instant noodles and wild vegetables collected at night amid dwindling supplies.

By Wednesday afternoon, northern Bac Giang Province had recorded 1,481 local Covid-19 cases, mostly workers employed at local industrial parks.

To prevent the spread of the virus, the whole province has quarantined 78 villages and residential neighborhoods, locked down four districts, and suspended the operation of four industrial parks – Van Trung, Quang Chau, Dinh Tram in Viet Yen District, and Song Khe – Noi Hoang in Yen Dung.

Noodles, eggs, rice are prepared by donors and authorities for workers in the centralized quarantine camps. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

Noodle, egg and rice donations are collected on behalf of workers in the centralized quarantine. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

Thousands of workers in Bac Giang are currently jobless, having no income, experiencing food shortages and unable to return to their hometown. Among them, many reside in hostels, are in medical isolation or centralized quarantine.

Tran Van Tien, 27, from central Nghe An Province, is employed by a company in Quang Chau. He said he and more than 50 others are being isolated at Ngoc Duong hostel in Viet Yen, located right next to Hosiden Vietnam, currently a Covid-19 cluster in Bac Giang Province.

Tien could not help but worry since each person gathered here could be a potential source of infection. Daily, he and others remain in their rooms, sometimes calling their families or reading online news. Only when a volunteer group arrives to distribute food do they stir to collect necessities, while strictly following safety measures.

"For many days we had to eat instant noodles since the hostel didn't have rice and we couldn’t go out to eat. Sometimes green vegetables are added, but only once in a while," he commented.

Tien shares his room with three others, each spending a daily VND250,000 ($10.84) on rent and meals. If the quarantine period is extended longer and there is no money left to spend, he may have to ask for support from his family.

Hoang Thi Nhan, a Hoang Ninh Commune resident who rents out homes to workers, said My Dien 1, My Dien 2 and My Dien 3 villages of Viet Yen District, which has been blocked, there were about 20,000 workers renting accommodation.

Many workers take advantage of the late night to catch crabs and snails to eat. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nhan.

Many workers sneak out to catch crabs and snails late at night. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nhan.

According to her, most workers are paid 70 percent of their salaries during the pandemic. On the other hand, seasonal workers are not qualified to earn similar benefits, stripping them of any means of income during the lockdown.

"Many workers take advantage of the night, when there is no one on the street, to sneak out and pick wild vegetables to cook with their instant noodles. Some even catch crabs and snails," Nhan said.

As the owner of 38 rooms in My Dien 1 Village housing about 60 workers, and in her fifth month of pregnancy, Nhan did her best to supply her customers with necessities, spending about VND100,000 ($4.34) per trip. She also promised to reduce their monthly rent.

A woman donates food for the workers stuck in centralized quarantine camps. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nhan.

A woman donates food for workers stuck in centralized quarantine. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nhan.

"Feeling sorry for them, I called on benefactors to provide supplies to later distribute among the workers. But since there are too many, some have texted me asking for help because they are hungry and thirsty. So I distribute as much of the donated goods as I can, hoping to help out a bit," Nhan said.

Also stuck in Bac Giang after the government decided to implement social distancing, Nguyen Duy Nam, a resident of Hanoi’s Chuong My District and employed by LA Construction, remains restless with his wife about to give birth in hospital.

Nam is one of 40 LA employees stuck in Noi Hoang Commune, Yen Dung District. Since the government’s lockdown order, Nam and others have had to temporarily stop working and adopt isolation measures. A construction worker with more than three years’ experience, he is used to traveling, though this is the first time he wants to go home as soon as possible.

"Knowing my wife is in the hospital waiting to give birth, I am very worried, but don’t know what else to do," he lamented.

Nguyen Xuan Hong, 47, deputy director of LA Construction, confirmed the company has about 40 workers stuck in Noi Hoang Commune, none however deemed a source of transmission or first generation infections. But to ensure safety, he has called on everyone to remain in situ instead of returning home. To help its employees, the company pays out a daily allowance of VND50,000 ($2.17) per person and has arranges free accommodation until the lockdown ends.

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