Evacuated residents of Hanoi’s biggest Covid outbreak area tell of life in quarantine

By Hai Hien   September 8, 2021 | 10:56 am GMT+7
Evacuated residents of Hanoi’s biggest Covid outbreak area tell of life in quarantine
Residents of at alleys 328 and 330 of Nguyen Trai Road wait to be taken to an isolated area on September 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Hai
Residents share their experience of centralized quarantine after evacuating from Hanoi’s biggest Covid outbreak area.

Despite sharing quarantine facilities at FPT University, Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park with 1,200 people of Thanh Xuan's Thanh Xuan Trung Ward, Nguyen Van Phong felt liberated. The delivery driver woke up early Monday and went out to the balcony to exercise.

"This is like going on a vacation. The atmosphere at the quarantine camp is clear and we are given three meals a day," Phong wrote on his personal social media account.

On the evening of Sept. 1, Phong and his brother, along with dozens of households living in alleys 328 and 330 on Nguyen Trai Road of Thanh Xuan Trung Ward where 509 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed, were ordered to relocate to prevent the spread of the virus.

Hanoi has recorded more than 3,853 community cases of Covid since the fourth wave began in late April. The capital has had a series of social distancing mandates since late July.

He said ward officers knocked on the door of each house to tell them to evacuate and gave each person a protective suit. At 7 p.m., he and other people boarded a bus to the isolated facility on the outskirts of Hanoi.

Phong's new place of residence is located in a dormitory with eight apartments per floor. His room is over 30 square meters and is furnished with an air conditioner and electric fan. However, he has to share a common bathroom with three other rooms.

He shared he feels lucky since he and his brother are being taken care off and don't have to worry about going hungry.

When the capital enforced its most stringent social distancing measure on July 23, Phong was forced to take a break from work. At the time, he and his brother only had around VND1 million ($44) left and enough rice for half a month. They had to cut their eating portions little by little, decreasing from three to two, then one meal per day, while sleeping more during the day to overcome hunger. At one time, they couldn't hold out any longer, with Phong going online asking strangers for help.

Nguyen Van Phong and his younger brother eat lunch at an isolated place in the dormitory of FPT University, on September 6, 2021. Photo courtesy of Phong

Nguyen Van Phong and his younger brother eat lunch at an isolated dormitory of FPT University, on Sept.6, 2021. Photo courtesy of Phong

In quarantine, he is given bread and milk for breakfast and a box of braised meat and stir-fried vegetables for lunch. For the first time in more than 20 days, the two brothers have decent meals.

"I can't afford such delicious meals at home," Phong told his brother, reminding him not to leave any leftovers.

People who come to quarantine here will receive three free meals a day, have their temperatures checked and tested once every two to three days. Anyone feeling unwell can call a hotline to ask for support. For the past few days, the building where Phong lives with more than 250 others has not detected any more Covid cases.

Like Phong, on the evening of Sept. 1, Nguyen Thi Tham's family of five received a notice from ward police asking them to evacuate from alley 328.

"I was very panicked and worried when I heard the news," the mother of two said.

In the chat group of residents in the alley, everyone encouraged each other to stay calm. Many people did not want to leave their houses, but residents motivated each other, saying it is safer in the isolation camp than staying home, the current biggest Covid cluster in Hanoi.

Nguyen Thi Thams two sons in protective gears in they day going to centralized quarantine camp on September 3, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tham

Nguyen Thi Tham's two sons in protective gear prepare to board the bus to centralized quarantine on Sept.3, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tham

Knowing Tham's family was about to go to the centralized camp, relatives constantly called to ask and remind them to bring along necessary items, which at this point, the 32-year-old woman couldn't quite recall.

A few days earlier, she texted a few acquaintances, bought some instant noodles, snacks and fruits for quarantine at home. Unexpectedly, those items now had to now be packed and brought to a new place.

At noon on Sept. 3, Tham's family boarded the last bus in Thanh Xuan Trung Ward to the quarantine facility. They were given a room of more than 30 square meters with bunk beds and an isolated bathroom.

Before leaving home, Tham also filled her travel bag with books and newspapers, wishing to turn the days apart into a useful time for her family.

"Sitting in one place and doing nothing can lead to sadness. Meanwhile, spending too much time on electronic devices can damage our eyes. So we use this time to read," the mother said.

On the morning of Sept. 5, the mother turned on the computer and let her older child participate in the online opening ceremony of school.

"Hopefully, someday, the children will be able to go to school again, and no longer have to attend classes via computer or phone."

These days, his phone is the only tool that helps Phong connect with the outside world. Previously, he spent most of his time reading news about Covid-19 and felt panicked when Thanh Xuan became a Covid hotspot. Now in the new place, he is much calmer and his insecurities have diluted over time.

Phong is looking forward to a new life after the pandemic, eating out with friends and returning to his delivery job in the city.

"I've lived in Hanoi for more than 10 years and hope it will again be as busy as before," he said.

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