Hanoi urbanites adapt to epidemic battle

By Pham Nga, Phan Diep   February 28, 2020 | 04:59 am PT
Hanoi urbanites adapt to epidemic battle
Residents in Hanoi wear face masks while going out. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
With the coronavirus a global obsession posing huge risks to human life, Hanoians young and old have adapted their daily habits to stay safe.

"Mom, please let me wash my hands. I just pressed the elevator button," a four-year-old girl told her mother.

Watching her daughter sanitize her hands with alcoholic gel, Nguyen Thi Ha, 32, a resident of Nam Tu Liem District, is glad to have adopted strict hygiene procedures.

"Without the epidemic, I would probably have never learned how to wash my hands properly," the young mother said, a queue of nodding neighbors exiting the elevator behind her.

Residing in the same building as Ha, Nguyen Chi Minh's family is equipped with bottles of 70-degree alcohol, used to disinfect their hands as recommended by health authorities. Now, he cleans his entire house, including appliances daily instead of bi-weekly.

Minh has grown accustomed to surfing his smartphone for updates on the virus and reads recommendations posted by the health ministry each morning after waking.

"Now, the main top during family meals involves the coronavirus," he said.

He and his wife decided to keep their child at home even before schools closed down. Now, a grandmother from Ninh Binh, around two hours from Hanoi, helps take care of them.  

After five years of working for a television equipment provider, this was the first time his company had no new contracts signed amonth after Tet, or Lunar New Year, Minh noted.

Ha and Minh are not the only people to be affected by the coronavirus epidemic that has spread to 57 countries and territories and killed 2,867 globally.

The atmosphere in many neighboring apartments in the building of more than 1,500 residents have sagged significantly, especially rapid spike of infection cases outside of China, where the virus originated.

Previously, many amusement parks were flooded laughing children, but now stand empty. Sports ground no longer bear the thud of basketballs while benches previously serving the elderly have been vacated.

Nguyen Chi Minh wears face mask while working at the apartment buidling in Nam Tu Liem District. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga. 

Nguyen Chi Minh wears face mask while working at the apartment buidling in Nam Tu Liem District. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga. 

Prudence pervades the entire city, with many supermarkets, shopping centers and public areas adopting body temperature checks.

A flower shop on Kim Ma Street in Ba Dinh District announced it would sterilize everything from scissors to door handles each day to safeguard customers. A hair salon on Duy Tan Street in Cau Giay District recommended customers limit talking and undergo body temperature screening.

Some companies have taken different measures to respond to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Returning to her company on Minh Khai Street in Hai Ba Trung District in the afternoon, Hoang Thi Hong, 42, sneezes continuously. A colleague pulled a mask from a box on the table and handed it to Hong, saying "Please put it on before you spray my face with all your viruses."

Her boss, sitting in the same room, said, "Tomorrow, if you feel tired, you can work at home," acknowledging the severity of the virus.

"My husband is normally pretty indifferent, but since I grew ill he’s urged me to visit the hospital for a checkup," Hong said.

On Sundays, the couple no longer sleeps in, but instead cleans up every corner of their apartment, making sure their 5-year-old daughter washed her hands thoroughly before eating and after using the toilet.

Around 10 km from Hong's home, in a cramped block of rentals in Cau Giay District, the life of Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, 25, is no longer what it used to be.

After work, Huong now calls two neighbors to her yard, and together exercise to the beat of music.

Before the outbreak, Huong exercised by the side gate of Cau Giay Park. But after the Tet holiday (from January 23-29), many health enthusiasts are now afraid to gather in large crowds.

After three weeks back at work, Huong has saved over VND600,000 ($25.9) by eating at home. Since the epidemic hit, Huong and four colleagues now cook their own rice in the office to avoid going out.

All support the idea of bringing food to work, even after the outbreak is finally contained.

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