Hanoians struggle to keep up with constant travel permit changes

By Hong Chieu   September 9, 2021 | 06:35 pm PT
While people rushed to apply for new travel passes last weekend, Hanoi simply reverted to okaying the old ones.

At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Thu Hang, an administrator of a frozen food import-export company in Dong Da District, told regional police "I don't know if ward officials will issue me a new travel permit or not."

She was worried sick, but later saw Hanoi would allow people to use their old travel passes, lifting the burden to some extent.

According to the new announcement, people could use both new travel permits (embedded with QR codes) and old versions (without QR codes) to travel around starting Wednesday. But this will be temporary, with both formats merged into one later on.

"All my hard work was in vain," the 27-year-old lamented.

Applicants wait outside Me Tri Ward police station to apply for new travel permits, Sept. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu

Applicants wait outside Me Tri Ward police station to apply for new travel permits, Sept. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu

Hang's company specializes in distributing frozen food to restaurants and kitchens in industrial zones.

Her journey to apply for seven travel passes in the past four days hasn't been easy. Before that, she listed out seven "indispensable" employees, including a security guard to look after the facilities and a sales person to do paperwork.

After she called the support hotline, police instructed her to apply for the new permits from the city's department of industry and trade. But when she asked the agency, she was told to wait.

Not knowing which party would issue her new permits, Hang prepared two sets of documents and sent them to both. But Hang said she had not received any response.

She received an email from the ward officials Monday morning, saying they couldn't issue her new permits because her job is not in the priority group.

"If food is not essential, then what is essential," she said.

Hang shared she was "quite shocked" at the time and thought of the frozen food shipments delivered to port subject to prolonged storage fees.

On Tuesday morning, she re-sent her documents to regional police and continued to wait until the end of the day for approval.

But the same night, the change in travel permit requirement hit her by surprise.

After days of carefully preparing the necessary documents and lining up outside local official's offices to submit them, at the last minute, the policy changed.

Ba Trinh, who is in charge of administrating an apartment rental company in Cau Giay District, found himself in the same situation as Hang.

Just to be sure, he went on to the city's official website to verify whether he could still use the old travel permits.

"I still worried if I would face any problems trying to pass Covid checkpoints the next day. But for now, though I am glad I can keep using my old permits," he said.

Trinh's company specializes in renting apartments to nearly 1,000 customers in dozens of buildings in downtown Hanoi, now classified as high-risk Covid area.

At noon last Monday, he called the ward police to ask about the process of applying for new travel permits for two maintenance workers in charge of technical issues and two cleaning staff.

He added that one of his tenants called him to report a water heater problem. If not fixed soon, it could cause an electrical fire.

But local police refused to issue a road permit, since his work was not in the priority group.

A police officer of Dich Vong Hau Ward, Hanois Cau Giay District, reviews business requests for new travel permits on Sept. 6. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

A police officer of Dich Vong Hau Ward, Hanoi's Cau Giay District, reviews a request for new travel permits on Sept. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

As a result, Trinh had to inform the tenants that if there was any problem, they could call a maintenance staff to receive instructions on how to fix the problem themselves.

While the regulation will always have to be adjusted in line with the anti-pandemic situation, Trinh wants all levels of sectors to "study more closely" before promulgating. Especially, officials need to look at how the new regulations can affect people's lives and business activities.

On the other hand, Hang wants the city's guidance to be more clear and in sync with agencies. The issuance of travel permits, if still required, should also be simpler and people should be able to apply online.

Many companies have complained the city kept issuing regulations relating to travel permits with "tight timing". The announcement about the latest requirement for travel permits came on the occasion of the National Day (Sept. 2) long weekend, so firms struggled to comply with the new rules.

This is the fifth time the city has changed its travel permit rules in the 49 days of the current semi-lockdown.

Earlier in August, many people were also waiting at night to apply for travel permits after the city required them to add their working schedules to their applications. A day later, the capital canceled the requirement, saying people only need to show their identification documents and travel permits issued by employers.

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