Hanoians taken by surprise as eateries ordered shut

By Phan Duong, Pham Nga   March 27, 2020 | 03:44 pm GMT+7

Hanoi authorities’ orders to close all restaurants and coffee shops as part of efforts to combat Covid-19 have taken some people by surprise.

In Co Nhue 1 Ward in Bac Tu Liem District on Thursday morning a waiter rushes to a car parking in front of his coffee shop and waves it away saying the shop is closed. A man in the car, not knowing about the closure order, looks around the deserted street and sees all the shops are closed.

The waiter said the orders to shut all "non-essential" businesses had surprised many customers, and he had to send more than 20 people away since morning that day.

Two days earlier Hanoi had ordered the closure of all business establishments except those selling food, medicine and fuel from March 26 to April 5.

Karaoke parlors, bars, night clubs, and cinemas have all closed. The city is operating 20 percent of its buses but discourages people from using public transportation.

Nguyen Van Thang, owner of that coffee shop in Co Nhue 1 Ward, said he had received a phone call from the local police telling him to close.

"I was surprised, but since we are in a pandemic we have to do it." In the event, he spent Thursday morning cleaning the coffee shop along with his 12 workers.

He has put up a board outside announcing the closure.

Thang closes the gate and puts a board on March 26, 2020, saying his coffee shop would be closed until April 5. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Thang closes the gate and puts a board on March 26, 2020, saying his coffee shop would be closed until April 5. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

He told his staff: "Go to your hometown if you want to or close your doors and stay inside. Do not wander outside, there is a pandemic."

On Nghia Tan Street, which is popular for its many street food and snack places, the only one open at lunchtime on Thursday was a tofu seller. All others selling foods like noodles, grilled pork and bread had vanished.

The fiftyish woman said she did not know about the authority’s order and would close her business after selling the last bowls of bean curd for some boys walking by.

Thirty meters away, Khuyen and her husband were donning masks and sitting in front of their noodles restaurant.

"Do you sell noodles today?", after 15 minutes, a customer came and asked.

"Only for takeaways," Khuyen responded.

She had no idea about the order of the authority until local police came and told her while she was opening the restaurant in the morning, leaving her no time to prepare.

Khuyen (L) and her husband try to sell as they had prepared the food in the morning of March 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Khuyen (L) and her husband try to sell as they had prepared the food in the morning of March 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Not putting plastic table and stools on the pavement as usual, she tried to wait for takeaway order before taking the leftovers home.

"I bring home and share the food with my relatives," said Khuyen, who has witnessed a significant decrease in the number of eaters since the coronavirus outbreak hit Vietnam. She has not decided when to re-open the noodles restaurant in the future.

Not too far from that, another vermicelli restaurant had a quick move by selling their food to online customers and encouraging people to opt for takeaways.

"Starting tomorrow, we will solely serve online orders," said a server.

Since morning that day many shops in Nghia Tan Market had received notices informing them whether or not they were an "essential" business.

"We sell essential supplies, so we are allowed to open," a butcher told a rice seller sitting next to her.

Not only businesses but also the public was surprised at the closure order by authorities.

Luu Tien Manh, 35, learned about it on March 25 but did not expect it would be that quick for local businesses to follow the order. The next morning he struggled to find breakfast since his usual banh mi place and many other restaurants were closed.

"I had to remain on the empty stomach until lunch," the man who works for a state-owned firm on Quan Su Street said.

Some of his colleagues tried to find lunch at 10 a.m., but all the restaurants nearby were closed. They eventually resorted to online orders.

Manh said: "Normally we have lunch and drink some tea outside. Now even the tea stall has vanished." He planned to bring his lunch from home the next day.

In the last two months the novel coronavirus had caused many changes to his daily life: The company’s football team had stopped playing, his colleagues gave up on the gym, which has also shut down due to the recent order from the local authority.

A restaurant closes for two months starting March 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

A restaurant closes for two months starting March 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Two kilometers away from Manh’s office, three young men were having lunch in a 30-meter-square apartment on Phan Huy Chu Street.

The tourism industry workers had become jobless and pooled VND20,000 ($0.85) each daily to cook two meals at home.

Nguyen Tien Duc, 24, said: "We now work as delivery men. I have a friend who is a baker, and we plan to buy his cakes and sell on the Internet."

Hanoi has the highest number of Covid-19 infections in Vietnam. On March 26 the government banned crowds of more than 20 people, ordering localities to close "non-essential" businesses as the Covid-19 fight escalates.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Vietnam has gone up to 153. Of the total, 20 have recovered and been discharged.

 
 
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