Shelves empty as nCoV-fearing Hanoians stock up on food

By Pham Nga   February 4, 2020 | 04:44 pm PT
Fearing the novel coronavirus, many Hanoi residents are stockpiling meat, vegetables and rice to avoid venturing outdoors.

Sighing, Nguyen Hong Hoa appraised some cabbages and carrots left on the shelves of a supermarket on Hanoi's Tran Dang Ninh Street.

"The Wuhan pneumonia epidemic has made me buy loads of food so my family doesn’t have to eat outside. There is meat, but the vegetables...," the Cau Giay District local said while shaking her head. It was noon when she left the supermarket.

Responding to customer complaints, a cashier explained: "There was enough vegetables in the morning, but too many buyers. A woman even used her car to transport meat and vegetables home."

Since last Saturday, when Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc declared the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak an epidemic in Vietnam, numerous citizens have stocked up on food.

Minh Hoang, from Thanh Xuan District, has struggled to buy suitable meat and vegetables at a nearby supermarket amid the mad rush.

Emptied shelves at a supermarket in Tran Dang Dinh Street on February 3. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.

Depleted vegetable shelves at a supermarket in Tran Dang Dinh Street on February 3, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.

"I’ve been to three supermarkets, all out of meat and vegetables," Hoang said while in search of food for dinner on Monday.

On the same day, Nguyen Kieu Trang, a white-collar worker in Cau Giay District left the office early to go shopping with her husband.

The couple ended up with 30 kilograms of rice, 2 kilograms of dried vermicelli, one box of instant noodles, four boxes of milk, beef, chicken, pork - 2 kilograms of each, 30 eggs, vegetables and canned food.

"On the TV, news, Facebook and even at my office, people keep saying we should avoid crowds, so from tomorrow, we will only eat what we cook," Trang said, saying her family of five adults would survive on the food for two weeks.

"Thanks to my husband, I could 'collect' that amount of food," she said, adding that stocks ran out very fast.

Wearing gloves and a mask, Thu Huong, 41, stepped into her local supermarket in Ha Dong District, quickly grabbing a box of instant noodles, three packages of buns, vegetables, meat, milk and fruits. The amount of food, costing VND2 million ($86), would be eaten in four days by Huong's five adult family.

"Before, my husband and I used to have breakfast and lunch outside. Sometimes we had snacks. Now, even touching the office door is scary," she explained, saying she now cooked three meals per day, including the next day’s lunch.

For single citizens in the metropolis, cooking at home starts with buying cookware.

Trinh Thi Thuong, 28, has never cooked at home since her roommate moved out four months ago. Living in Hanoi's Hoang Mai District, she decided to spend VND2 million ($86) on a gas oven and kitchen utilities to prepare meals at home.

"I went to the supermarket last night and there were no vegetables, meat, or instant noodles left. I asked my manager to go to work late today, since there is more food in the morning," Thuong noted.

Some shoppers still feel comfortable since stocking up on food is not a common trend across the city.

On the evening of Monday, at a big supermarket on Tran Duy Hung Street, it was still easy for Le Hung, a resident in Cau Giay District, to stock up on food for his family.

"Today is Monday, so I can see people are shopping slowly. The supermarket still has whatever we need," said Hung.

Some have other options when it comes to stockpiling food. 32-year-old Dao Thi Thinh from Thanh Oai District is one.

Predicting the nCoV epidemic would worsen after Tet (Lunar New Year), she brought a package of meat and vegetables from her hometown to the city. Before finishing the food, she would call her mother in the countryside, asking her to send more.

Thinhs frigde is filled with food from her hometown. Photo by VnExpress/Dao Thinh.

Thinh's frigde is filled with food sent from her hometown. Photo by VnExpress/Dao Thinh.

"We used to have dinner at home, no matter how much food I store in the fridge. Since Tet, I started cooking lunch at home to bring to the office," said Thinh, accountant for a confectionery importer.

28-year-old Le Nguyen, from Hoang Mai District, who works in the medical sector along with his wife, wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to buy fresh food from the market.

"We do not plan to stockpile, since food stored in the fridge over a long period is not good for our health. Furthermore, due to the pneumonia epidemic, if everyone stockpiles food, supply will drop and prices increase," he said.

As of February 5, tenth people in Vietnam had been diagnosed with the infection and 90 are in quarantine pending test results.

The death toll from the epidemic has reached 492, with 490 dying in China, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.

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