Vietnamese in Beijing embrace mounting fears over new Covid-19 outbreak

By Hong Hanh   June 23, 2020 | 09:38 pm PT
Vietnamese in Beijing embrace mounting fears over new Covid-19 outbreak
A woman walks past a gate of the Liuliqiao long-distance bus station that was shut after a new outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Beijing, China June 18, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Thomas Peter.
With Beijing experiencing a second wave of Covid-19, Vietnamese residing in the sprawling city remain indoors, barred from all nonessential travel beyond its borders.

Chinese capital Beijing is facing a second wave of the novel coronavirus, linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, a food distribution center in the city, promoting the local government to impose strict lockdown measures, close schools and cancel thousands of flights to contain the spread of the outbreak.

The city of more than 20 million people reported its first case in the latest wave on June 11, with over 200 Beijingers so far confirmed positive for Covid-19.

Doan Thi Quynh, who has lived in Beijing over eight years, resides near Xinfadi wholesale market, currently closed to outsiders and where all locals are required to provide daily body temperature checks.

"Since the new Covid-19 outbreak emerged in Beijing, streets are deserted as residents are too scared to venture outside and contract the virus," Quynh said.

Doan Thi Quynh reads fairy tale for her son while at her home in Beijing. Photo courtesy of Quynh

Doan Thi Quynh reads fairy tale for her son while at her home in Beijing. Photo courtesy of Quynh.

She has been at home looking after her children since February as China became the global epicenter of the novel coronavirus.

Formerly employed by a travel company, Quynh said the local tourism industry was hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis, making her dependent on her husband, who works in the construction sector.

China, where the first Covid-19 infections were reported last December in Wuhan City, claimed it had brought its Covid-19 epidemic under control in early May, before the second wave broke.

Around 30 Vietnamese women married to Chinese husbands live in Beijing, according to official statistics.

Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, 35, has studied and worked in Beijing since 2012 after marrying and giving birth to a three-year-old daughter.

Ha said since the Lunar New Year holiday (Tet), Vietnamese brides living in Beijing have not gathered due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Some returned to Vietnam to celebrate Tet but cannot go back to China amid flight suspension and border closures while others remain stuck at home in China," said Ha.

Having graduated from Tsinghua University, close to her home in Beijing, and currently working on a PhD in economic finance at Beijing Economic Research Institute, she has had to work online since Tet.

Schools in Beijing were closed following a spike in new infections, with all teaching activities switched online. The majority of overseas students have also returned home.

Ha said when Beijing closed Xinfadi wholesale market last week, many locals felt worried and rushed to stockpile necessary items. However, everything has stabilized, stocks are replenished from neighboring areas at night.

In Ha’s neighborhood, residents are allowed to go out, but need to carry health certificates and undergo body temperature checks. However, a neighboring nurse from Beijing International Hospital has been confirmed infected with the novel coronavirus, meaning the area could be closely monitored or locked down.

Vu Thu Hien, studying a PhD at the People's University of China in Beijing, is the only Vietnamese student remaining on campus since the Tet break. Hien limits going out and spends most of the time working on her thesis.

While economic and trade activities in China only returned to normal in May following a nearly five month Covid-19 fight, the new outbreak in Beijing has again changed the rules.

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