Expats join locals in Covid battle

By Long Nguyen   June 8, 2021 | 11:06 pm PT
Foreigners are donating money and essential items like food and masks to people who have lost livelihoods to the Covid-19 pandemic, showing their solidarity with their adopted country.

On Saturday night Michael Wilson and his girlfriend in Saigon’s District 2 prepared food and traveled to many places in town to hand them to disadvantaged people who have lost their livelihoods due to the two-week social distancing campaign and the pandemic.

"Everyone is hit by the pandemic, so I just contribute what I can," Wilson, 34, an English teacher from the U.K., says.

He distributed 50 sandwiches and masks to lottery sellers and motorbike taxi drivers. Last year too, during the nationwide social distancing campaign, he had joined his friends in donating masks and sanitizers to people in need.

"We are in this together."

Wilson is among many foreigners who have done their bit to help less fortunate people in their new home survive the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected their livelihoods.

Wayne Worrell and

Wayne Worrell (L) and his friends send positive messages to Covid-19 frontline workers in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Wayne Worrell.

In Hanoi, Daniel James, 41, also an English teacher, bought instant noodles, water and masks and distributed them to some poor people after the fourth wave of Covid began.

He solicited donations from expat friends, bought things from a supermarket and drove around to himself distribute them.

"The city is my second home, so I want to express my gratitude and join in this Covid battle," he says.

Wayne Worrell, 55, a British teacher living in Hanoi for more than a decade, donated face masks to people to raise public awareness of wearing masks during the previous outbreak.

When blood banks were running out of supply since people were scared to donate amid the pandemic, he urged expats to pitch in.

He tells VnExpress: "I have lived in Vietnam for 10 years. I want to support this country. We must unite as one and show where our hearts lie."

Some expats are offering free online English lessons and activities.

Alex Azbel, an American computer programmer, was stranded in Hanoi due to the pandemic before starting to tutor an acquaintance’s children in English and math last year.

Since February, since children could not return to school, he has been running free English classes every week for students and their parents online.

Unable to travel because the pandemic, many other expats have donated money.

Indian Munish Gupta in Saigon, for instance, head of operations at an international firm, sent money to a group of friends for distribution in the northern provinces of Bac Giang and Bac Ninh, the current Covid hotspots.

Last year too he had sent money to Da Nang when the central city was in the grip of an outbreak.

A foreign man has his blood sample taken for the new coronavirus tests in Da Nang, August 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

A foreign man has his blood sample taken for the new coronavirus tests in Da Nang, August 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.


Many foreigners agree that living in Vietnam amid the Covid ordeal is a blessing that has brought peace of mind because of the safety here.

According to InterNations, the world’s largest expat community, 79 percent of expats in Vietnam said they are satisfied with the official information they get about Covid and the protocols to prevent its spread.

Wilson says: "I always wear a mask and maintain social distance in public places. It is good that most Vietnamese also adopt these measures. So I feel safe."

James says living in Vietnam during the year-long pandemic has helped him keep anxiety at bay and focus on his work.

"Living in Hanoi, I witnessed firsthand the government's Covid management and people’s ready compliance. It is a blessing staying in Vietnam during the pandemic."

He admits he was anxious at first when Covid appeared last year. But realizing it was safe to stay back, he decided not to return home to the U.K.

According to InterNations, close to 33 percent of expats in Vietnam have decided not to move back home in the near future due to the pandemic versus 18 percent globally.

As the country battles with the latest outbreak that has infected more than 6,000 people, many of them hope Vietnam will overcome the current wave and vaccinate people soon.

"We will surely get through this outbreak; let's strictly adhere to the preventive measures," Wilson says.

He hopes kindness and solidarity will bond people "regardless of their origin, language or skin color" and help them overcome the pandemic.

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