Vietnamese learning to live with prolonged lockdowns

By Dang Khoa, Long Nguyen   July 30, 2021 | 11:23 am GMT+7
Changing their lifestyles and taking up new habits, people are doing whatever it takes to adapt to the lack of social life amid Covid-19 lockdowns.

Tran Thanh Huong woke up early last Wednesday morning to buy some eggs and pork. But instead of going to a market near her house in Hanoi's Long Bien District, she waited for a vendor to knock on her door and give her the groceries.

"I call and order meat and vegetables from my favorite sellers every week, and do not have the courage to go out for groceries amid this raging pandemic," she said.

While she has to accept whatever they deliver, "at least it is safer than venturing out."

The 51-year-old housewife is among millions of people in Hanoi and Saigon who have changed their lifestyles and habits to adapt to the month-long social distancing campaign.

A man gives goods to his family member living in a locked down alley. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van.

A man gives goods to his family member living in a locked down alley in HCMC's District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van.

As the nation faces its worst coronavirus outbreak yet, both cities have imposed Directive 16, which requires the most stringent social distancing regulations like staying at home and only going out for necessities such as buying food or medicines or going to work at factories or businesses that are allowed to open.

People are now reconciling with the likely prospect of staying at home for weeks if not months.

Phan Thi Thu Nhi's routine came to an abrupt end when Hanoi imposed social distancing last Saturday.

The 41-year-old used to walk five kilometers around her neighborhood in the late afternoon after a long day at work, but now she has to "walk on her eight-meter-long rooftop for at least 30 minutes before breaking a sweat.

"Due to tougher social distancing measures, I can no longer walk with my friends around West Lake and have to adopt new workout routines."

She said she sees a lot of neighbors exercise on their rooftops these days.

Since remaining at home and the closure of shops could be the new reality for a while, many have decided to do things like cutting hair, fixing home appliances, and even laundry on their own.

Nguyen Manh Cuong of HCMC's District 7 has been relying on his wife to trim his hair ever since barbershops closed down in May.

He said: "I have been having my hair cut by the same guy at the same barbershop for years. I have never trusted anyone else to cut my hair."

On Facebook, many people narrate their experience with cutting their hair at home during the lockdown, saying calling a barber home is not safe.

"I realized that my favorite shop could be shut for months while my hair had grown so long, and so I asked my wife to give me a buzz cut," Cuong said.

A person who used to come every Sunday to clean their house has stopped working due to the social distancing.

"So my wife and I do the work."

Many people have also changed their eating behaviors, replacing eating out with food at home.

"I am too busy to cook, but since all restaurants in town are closed, I had to learn cooking from scratch," Nguyen Thi Thu Trang, a student living in Hanoi's Hai Ba Trung District, said.

Many other young people in Hanoi and Saigon also said the current lockdown has made them learn cooking, take up new habits like growing plants or having new pets or reach out to people suffering due to the pandemic.

With her brother and sisters living in locked-down areas in HCMC, Hanoi teacher Le Thi Thanh Huyen makes a group video call with them every evening to cheer them up.

Trang also chats with her friends every day to avoid loneliness.

"I found a lot of people feel unwell during the pandemic, so we just need to reach out to them to make them feel someone cares," she said.

Workers from a nearby construction site pass the corner of Trang Tien - Hang Bai - Trang Thi streets as Hanoi entered the first day of the 15-day social distancing measures, July 24, 2021. Photo bn VnExress/Giang Huy.

Workers from a nearby construction site pass the corner of Trang Tien - Hang Bai - Trang Thi streets as Hanoi entered the first day of the 15-day social distancing measures, July 24, 2021. Photo bn VnExress/Giang Huy.

Since starting in late April, the fourth wave of Covid has spread to 62 out of the country’s 63 provinces and cities, and there have been over 129,000 cases.

Many provinces and cities have imposed various levels of lockdowns and nighttime restrictions to contain what has been found to be the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

On July 28 Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam warned that it could take months to control the outbreak in HCMC and its neighboring provinces.

"In HCMC and some parts of Dong Nai, Binh Duong and Long An, we can say that the pandemic has spread to many areas."

The city has come up with several scenarios for following up on the 15-day social distancing order imposed since July 9.

The most appropriate option would be to continue social distancing, even ramping it up in some places, according to Phan Van Mai, deputy secretary of the city Party Standing Committee.

Many people now understand the seriousness of the pandemic and fear infection.

Huong, who has worked from home since June, said: "They have imposed a lot of measures but the number of new patients keep rocketing. I know the country faces a challenging battle."

She has the contacts of many sellers near her house and so can get groceries for months without having to go to the market.

On TV and social media, people provide each other with encouragement and support, and say they must strictly follow the rules and be patient to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Trang, learning to make spring rolls from a YouTube video, said: "I try to do my part, including staying at home and staying positive to support my friends in Saigon. The pandemic has changed all of us, but I choose to be optimistic and keep fighting it."

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