Hanoi’s Da Nang returnees live with increasing dread of Covid-19

By Long Nguyen   July 30, 2020 | 06:56 pm PT
Since returning to Hanoi after a holiday in Da Nang last week, Trinh Thi Hoa has become a bundle of nerves, fearful she might have contracted the coronavirus.

Like many other people, Hoa, 34, has been apprehensive at seeing the number of Covid-19 cases rise in the last few days.

"I am shaking. I was optimistic a couple of days ago, but after watching the news this morning saying 93 new Covid-19 infection cases in less than a week, I am scared," she says.

The Hanoi woman, who works for the National Children's Hospital, also has another reason to worry: she had been on a four-day trip to Da Nang with her family and colleagues and returned only last weekend.

The central city, a popular tourism destination that attracted thousands of tourists after the government eased social distancing, has now become the country’s Covid-19 hotspot after 99 days without a single case of local transmission.

As of Friday morning 93 people have been diagnosed with the disease since it resurfaced in the community on July 25, 79 of them in Da Nang.

Women wear protective masks as they ride in a street, during the Covid-19 outbreak, in Hanoi, July 27, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

Women wear protective masks on a Hanoi street on July 27, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Kham.

Hoa says: "The pizza restaurant where I used to eat on Tran Thai Tong Street has an employee who returned from Da Nang and is infected. The situation is stressful."

The 23-year-old man was the first person to be diagnosed with Covid-19 in the capital.

Hoa is among thousands of people, mostly in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, who visited Da Nang and are now living with anxiety.

According to authorities, around 32,000 Hanoians had visited Da Nang in the last few days before it went into a Covid-19 semi-lockdown, the number was 18,000 for HCMC.

Bui Minh Long, 43, of Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District is another of those living with increasing fear since returning from Da Nang.

After returning to Hanoi on July 25, when Da Nang had only one Covid-19 case, he was not too worried, but it has become harrowing for him to see the number of cases steadily mount.

"The infected people have traveled to many places in Da Nang; who knows if we have not been to the same places?" he asks on Thursday morning, after Hanoi confirmed one more case, also a Da Nang returnee.


Many people, worried they could have contracted the novel coronavirus, have opted to quarantine themselves after returning from Da Nang.

Hoa, who has been staying at home with her husband and daughter since returning to Hanoi, has avoided all visits by others, including her parents-in-law, who live close by.

"My family is anxious, my parents-in-law call us every day."

The unexpected requirement for self-quarantine has become an ordeal since the nurse cannot work from home. Her husband, an IT engineer, has no such problem. Their eight-year-old daughter has had to skip school.

Her mother-in-law buys food for her and asks a security person in her building to take the food up to Hoa’s apartment. Sometimes, she resorts to online shopping and delivery.

Hoa says: "Not venturing out for nearly a week is claustrophobic. But we will try to reduce the risk for people around us."

Self-quarantining is not mandatory for Da Nang returnees in the capital, which allows Long to go to work.

Avoiding crowds, he now goes to work by motorbike instead of public buses, and face masks and hand sanitizers have become indispensable.

A health worker of Hanoi CDC gets test samples from an employee of a pizza restaurant where another employee tested positive with the novel coronavirus after travel from Da Nang Vity, in Hanoi, Vietnam July 29, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

A worker from the Hanoi Center for Disease Control (CDC) takes samples from a Hanoi pizza restaurant employee whose colleague tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from Da Nang. Photo by Reuters/Kham.

Local authorities have said there would be mass testing for those who visited Da Nang after July 1.

Le Thi Tuyet, 53, a worker at a paper company in Long Bien District, also goes to work but avoids having lunch with her colleagues.

"I cannot stay at home because I have to earn money, so I try my best to make others feel safe when I am around," she says.

She is anxious to have the Covid-19 test, which would put her family and friends at ease "if it is negative" and enable her to meet her 83-year-old mother.

Amid the escalating number of Covid-19 cases, national and city authorities are ramping up containment measures.

In Da Nang, a 15-day social distancing campaign began on July 28, while Hoi An town in neighboring Quang Nam Province, 30 km away from Da Nang, began its two-week semi-lockdown on Friday.

Besides publishing news about the outbreak including on social media, local authorities and the health ministry send text messages to each member of the public to keep them updated.

Hanoi authorities has decided to conduct mass testing starting July 30, which would be finished on August 1 of all Da Nang returnees.

Tuyet and her family called the medical center in Long Bien District soon after hearing about the mass testing, and were told to wait since the number of people to be tested could be very high.

The capital too has banned large gatherings and ordered bars closed from midnight on Wednesday, and its people’s committee chairman, Nguyen Duc Chung, said the city must "act now and act fast" after the first Covid-19 case was confirmed.

Hoa says: "The best solution for those returning from a Covid-19 hotspot like us is to follow authorities’ guidelines."

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