HCMC hotel welcomes frontline Covid workers

By Diep Phan   July 16, 2021 | 05:00 am PT
A HCMC hotel owner has taken in many frontline Covid-19 workers afraid of traveling home and infecting their families.

On the morning of July 10, Nguyen Phuoc Hieu, 23, woke up later than usual. In the past few days, after supporting doctors in Saigon to collect samples for Covid-19 testing, the volunteer no longer has to drive the 60 kilometers home to southern Binh Duong Province.

With no more interprovincial traveling, he has stayed at Ambassador Hotel on District 1's Bui Thi Xuan Street.

"I heard Covid volunteers and doctors say they are not welcomed by their landlords and worry for the safety of their families should they return home. I have no guests in the hotel and want to help them enjoy better sleep after their long working day," said Dinh Quoc Huy, 35, hotel owner.

Khoi (L) welcomes Phuoc Hieu to the hotel, July 7, 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Tuan Khoi.

Khoi (L) welcomes Phuoc Hieu to the hotel, July 7, 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Tuan Khoi.

Previously, the businessman had renovated several new hotels. Severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, Huy said he could maintain his business thanks to the support of his landlords.

Since May, as Ho Chi Minh City struggles with its worst Covid outbreak, Huy knew he should do something to support his city.

Working with Nguyen Tuan Khoi, founder of a charity organization distributing free food to the poor across Saigon, Huy has used his own money to run the hotel on Bui Thi Xuan Street, providing free rooms for many frontline Covid workers.

"I was thinking about 'wasting,' so I want to use my closed hotel for something meaningful. Providing clean and convenient accommodation is how support doctors, patients and volunteers," Khoi said.

Huy's hotel has 61 double rooms and has received more than 60 frontline Covid workers since July 7.

To avoid infection, the hotel employs fans instead of air conditioners. Volunteers have to show negative test results and documents proving they are taking part in the Covid-19 battle. Doctors must have their hospitals' approval.

Learning about the hotel, Phuoc Hieu became its first guest last week. Joining the Covid battle in Saigon, he has traveled between the city and his hometown Binh Duong daily since early June. His parents told him to stop working, worrying their son would be infected and transmit the virus to his family.

But Hieu, who used to be a stage actor, has kept providing support amid the raging pandemic.

"Sometimes I am anxious that many loved ones or neighbors could be infected," he admitted.

Huy and Khoi prepare essentials and deliver them to the hotel, July 9. 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Tuan Khoi.

Huy and Khoi prepare essentials for the hotel, July 9. 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Tuan Khoi.

Tran Ha My, another hotel guest, was rejected by her landlord after helping local doctors collect samples and trace contacts with her group of six friends.

They eventually resorted to Huy's hotel and helped him clean the other rooms to welcome more frontline Covid workers.

"Huy also lets us cook in the kitchen. Khoi gives us free meals and noodles, eggs, milk," My said, adding she did not expect she would receive a lot when deciding to assist communities in the Covid-19 battle.

"We will save electricity in the hotel, while strictly following prevention rules."

Currently, the most challenging problem in the hotel is laundry. While Huy and Khoi are trying to connect some services to guests, many have washed their own clothes and hung them in the restrooms.

After nearly a week, hundreds of people have registered for a bed, but the capacity does not allow the businessmen to welcome so many simultaneously. Calling it a "community hotel," Khoi hopes he can support people hit hard by the pandemic in the future.

"Saigon has a lot of luxurious motels and hotels, so I hope there will be more support. I am willing to provide free meals and share my experience with those wanting to operate hotels for the community," Khoi maintained.

Since the new wave of Covid-19 emerged in Vietnam on April 27, the nation has recorded over 33,00 community infections in 58 cities and provinces. HCMC has the highest number of cases, more than 18,200.

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