Quarantined kindergarten kids miss home

By Duong Tam   February 6, 2021 | 12:00 pm GMT+7
'Mom, why isn’t grandpa or grandma picking me up?' 'Oh there’s a virus lingering outside. We have to stay here to be safe.'

Vu Thi Khanh, 25, was lucky that her four-year-old son accepted her explanation without further questions.

On the night of February 3, Khanh took a photo of her son drawing with his crayons and sent it to her husband and parents. Her family was thrilled on seeing the boy on their phones.

Two days earlier, on February 1, Khanh was told that her son’s classmate had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, so the kids had to be quarantined.

The kindergarten’s principal and teachers called and pressed the mother to put her son in a centralized quarantine facility. Having no time to prepare, Khanh rushed home, picked up some clothes and milk and left the house with her son.

In the afternoon, many parents took their children to the kindergarten. They were all anxious, but the minors were happy to see each other after staying at home for three days to avoid Covid-19 risks in the northern province of Hai Duong, the current epicenter of the latest outbreak in the country.

Parents take children to Bach Dang Kindergarten, February 1, 2021.

Parents arrive with their children at the Bach Dang Kindergarten, Hai Duong Province, February 1, 2021. Photo courtesy of Vu Thi Khanh.

On January 28, Vietnam was shaken by the latest Covid-19 outbreak of community transmissions in the provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh. The outbreak has since spread to 12 localities.

Hai Duong and Quang Ninh have locked down several localities for 21 days, while other places in the provinces are applying less stringent social distancing measures.

"They are innocent and happy to go to school to see their friends. When I saw them call out to their friends and being happy, I did not know what to think," Khanh said.

With each of the 70 children in the kindergarten accompanied by a parent, they were divided into groups of 10 pairs, sticking to their rooms to maintain social distancing. With no beds, they had to sleep on the floor on mattresses and blankets supplied by the kindergarten.

When the happy children tried to hang out and play with each other, medics and parents had to intervene and stop them to minimize infection risks.

Things were okay until the evening. Then, when many children did not see their grandparents pick them up as they usually did, they burst into tears.

Khanh was thankful that her son accepted her explanation and agreed to go to bed after speaking to his grandparents and father at home on the phone. When he burst into tears again on seeing them, his grandparents mollified him by promising to send him toys the next day.

Khanh also felt lucky that her son was not a picky eater. Many other children cried and refused to eat when they did not see their favorite foods.

Children and parents stay on bunk beds.

Children and parents quarantined in the kindergarten sleep in bunk beds. Photo courtesy of Vu Thi Khanh.

The next morning, the local authorities brought 100 bunk beds from a military camp to the kindergarten. The pairs use the lower bed to sleep and put their stuff on the upper one.

Khanh was relieved because sleeping on the floor was cold, especially for children. The kindergarten has all the other necessary facilities, from private restrooms with hot water to an area to hang washed clothes.

Meals are served at 7 a.m, 10:30 a.m., and 4:30 p.m. every day by cooks from the local Bach Dang Commune. At 3 p.m., Khanh and other parents help their children take a shower and wash their clothes. Things have moved smoothly, for the lost part.

Some children have continued to be picky about their food, and some cry on not having anything to play with in the quarantine area.

Khanh’s husband has brought clothes and food for his wife and son three times since February 1. Keeping their promise, the grandparents have sent their grandchild some toys so the boy would not feel bored. But it was not too long before he asked his mother to let him use her phone.

"I never allow him to use my phone when we are at home. But in this case, I must be flexible so that he will stop crying and disturbing others," Khanh said.

After a few days, the children and their parents have become used to life at the kindergarten, where they have to stay for at least 21 days.

Khanh said some children stay with their grandparents since their parents are in quarantine in another location or too busy to take care of them.

Khanhs son (R) draws with his friend.

Khanh's son (R) draws pictures with his friend. Photo courtesy of Vu Thi Khanh.

At the Bach Dang Kindergarten, 71 children and their family members, seven teachers, 21 locals, and four children from another school have been quarantined.

Ngo Thi Nga, 51, entered the kindergarten on the afternoon of February 1 and stays in the building opposite the one where the children stay with their parents.

"I will forget their innocent eyes and worry on learning that they must stay on at the school in the evening," Nga said.

Life in the kindergarten has stabilized. Many children have stopped crying. Many donors have sent food and toys for the minors. Nga has called on her friends to show their support for the children.

"I was anxious on hearing that one of our students had tested positive. How was I to tell my children that they were at risk of getting infected? But now I feel relieved that everything is stable," said Nguyen Thi Bich, principal of the Bach Dang Kindergarten.

Hai Duong is currently Vietnam’s biggest Covid-19 hotspot. The province has recorded 290 cases in the new outbreak, and converted schools into quarantine facilities after students' parents and classmates got infected by the virus.

Principal Bich and the school’s staff have voluntarily stayed on at the kindergarten to support children and medics. She hopes they will be fine after 21 days of quarantine so 360 children can return to school when things return to normal.

 
 
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