Returning Vietnamese transform quarantine into holiday

By Thuy Quynh   March 11, 2020 | 06:04 am PT
Returning Vietnamese transform quarantine into holiday
Thao Le and her two new friends in quarantine. Photo courtesy of Thao Le.
Returning from South Korea, Vietnamese international students are using their 14-day quarantine to take a rest. 

Covid-19 has spread globally with over 100 infected countries and territories. China and South Korea, two of the five regions most heavily affected by the epidemic, are also hosting many Vietnamese students. While many choose to "go with the flow" and stay put, the rest are determined to return to Vietnam and ... go straight to quarantine camps.

Last Thursday, Thao Le, 25, was transferred to the quarantine zone at the Military School of Military Region V in central Da Nang City. Her schedule here proved very repetitive: every day she got up at 6 a.m., had lunch at 11 a.m., dinner at 5 p.m., and gathered in a common room at 9 p.m. before going to bed. With no friends around and few forms of entertainment, her first three days was incredibly boring.  

By the fourth day, when everyone had grown less anxious, Thao and others in the zone opened up to each other. 

Thao was studying on Jeju Island, far away from the epicenter of Daegu. At the end of February, when Covid-19 broke out, she took preventive measures and limited going out. 

When the situation got worse in South Korea, she decided to return to Vietnam. "I only had four days to arrange everything from my studies, my part-time work and other personal matters," she said. "Transportation was not easy. So many flight tickets had been cancelled and I had to check airfare websites many times to secure a ticket." 

The night before boarding, she could not sleep, feeling anxious about her decision. When the plane landed, she signed with relief. Many soldiers were waiting at the airport to transport arrivals to quarantine zones. They all looked exhausted. Seeing that, Thao was both touched and felt slightly guilty. 

To her, 14 days in quarantine proved an unforgettable experience.

"I can do many things in my free time. I can read books, call my friends and family, play badminton or volleyball in the afternoon or take a walk. In the evening, people gather to talk or sing together. We even forget about the time," Thao said.

Recently, Thao and her new friends created a dance cover video that caught many people's attention.

Thao and her new friends dance in quarantine.

"We recorded this video spontaneously to keep some memories of our time in quarantine. The positive reaction surprised us. We will share more videos soon," she promised. 

During International Women's Day last Saturday, Thao and her friends received gifts and flowers from soldiers. "I never expected to have such a memorable time here," she commented. 

Unexpectedly, Le Quyen, 27, from South Korea's Gwangju University, and her fellow passengers were placed in quarantine at Go Gang Tam Binh Military School in southern Vinh Long Province among nearly 200 other people.  

"When I learnt I had to be quarantined, I was worried whether I would get cross-infected, and how living conditions would be. I even thought I could not endure 14 days. However, every day is filled with pleasant surprises," Quyen said. 

At the quarantine zone, Quyen was given a chance to re-experience her childhood. "We treat each other as family members and spend a lot of common time together." 

Around 4:30-5 a.m., soldiers wake everyone up for exercise to uplifting music. At 6 a.m., there is a temperature check, and everyone is given a face mask. Breakfast is at 6:30 am. After breakfast, everyone washes and hangs out clothes. 10:40 a.m. is lunchtime. Then it's snack time with lots of fruits. In the afternoon, everyone can read, talk or relax. At 4:30 pm, it's early dinner time, before Covid-19 news is broadcast. People then played sports together or just hang out in their own ways. 

"Many here don't call family members often since we are all busy with new activities. You may be surprised, but some wish they could stay for a whole month", Quyen said laughing. 

When asked about memorable events, Quyen recalled the nights soldiers cooked for them, the gifts she received on International Women's Day and the care-free conversations. 

"The days pass quickly – quarantine is necessary to prevent the disease from spreading. Here you have the chance to get a health check, to exercise, and meet new friends," she declared.  

As of Wednesday evening, Vietnam had reported 38 Covid-19 patients, 16 of them discharged weeks ago.

The Covid-19 outbreak has thus far spread to 119 countries and territories around the world, killing 4,300 people.

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