Crawl back to normalcy: Da Nang after social distancing eased

By Nguyen Dong   September 12, 2020 | 04:27 am PT
With the easing of social distancing, some restaurants have welcomed back local patrons, while those near beaches remain closed due to the lack of tourists.

At 6 a.m. on September 11, Dinh Song Bach Xuan, 38, opened her Bep Bo Ban restaurant after 45 days of closure due to the new outbreak in the central city. Located in a small alley on Hai Chau District's Hai Phong Street, the eatery had been closed three days after Covid-19 resurfaced in Da Nang on July 25, placing around 1,700 residents near three hospital hotspots into lockdown.

Five days ago, Da Nang authorities started allowing local restaurants to serve take-out, but on September 11, gave the green light for customers to return to the table.

"Business is not yet booming, though. Since morning, only 10 clients had been served," Xuan said.

Xuan wears a mask to welcome her patrons on September 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

Xuan wears a mask to welcome patrons on September 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

"Many people have gotten used to cooking at home. Some employees have yet to return to work too," she said.

Around 5 p.m., Mai Thao, owner of a lemon tea shop, told her staff to place tables and chairs along the pavement on Hoang Hoa Tham Street. An hour later, with street lights glistening, trendy music is put on to lure young patrons back.

"I have stopped my business for a long time, I hope my loyal customers will return and support me," said Thao, 30.

After opening her business a couple of months ago, Thao’s tea shop has become a hub for youngsters to hang out. But the Covid-19 pandemic forced her to close up. Luckily, her landlord agreed to defer rent during the semi-lockdown, which is usually around VND40 million ($1,724) a month.

A tea shop with a lot of youngsters on Hoang Hoa Tham Street at 9 p.m. on September 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

A tea shop on Hoang Hoa Tham Street at 9 p.m. on September 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

In the last few days, with her shop serving take-outs, Thao had to pay rent of VND30 million a month.

On Vo Nguyen Giap Street, located by the beach, many hotels, restaurants and beer parlors stand empty or closed due to the lack of tourists in the city.

At Be Man, a popular restaurant on Vo Nguyen Giap Street, around 20 clients sit around four tables during lunch. Three of the tables are made up of the owner's relatives celebrating the social distancing ease. All tables are placed two meters apart, while hand sanitizers stand ready for use at all entrances.

Before the pandemic resurfaced, Be Man welcomed a myriad of patrons. Open at 9 a.m. daily, it used to close right before midnight.

Restaurants by My Khe Beach still closed. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

Restaurants by My Khe Beach remain closed. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

"We reopened mostly to maintain our business and serve our loyal customers. We don’t care about profits at the moment. Tourism season is almost over in Da Nang, rain is coming," the owner said.

During 45 days of semi-lockdown, Tran Quoc Cuong spent more time with his family and on his hobbies: working out and cooking for his two children.

Working for a charity group, he has raised money to provide 20 mobile disinfection chambers and 1,000 face shields to local medical centers.

According to him, the pandemic may well have allowed the central city a little respite from the growing tourism trade in recent years.

"This morning, I went to the beach and realized it was much cleaner, the air is also better," Cuong maintained.

Since July 25 when local transmissions returned to Vietnam after more than three months, Da Nang alone has confirmed 389 Covid-19 cases.

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