Vietnamese on surviving five lockdowns in Australia

By Thanh Tam, An Pham   August 3, 2021 | 03:30 am PT
Vietnamese on surviving five lockdowns in Australia
A lone woman, wearing a protective face mask, walks across an unusually quiet city centre bridge on the first day of a lockdown as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Sandra Sanders.
A Vietnamese family living in Melbourne has experienced five lockdowns since the Covid-19 pandemic first hit Australia early last year.

"As in many countries around the world, during the first lockdown, people in Australia also lost their temper, rushed to hoard food and toilet paper from supermarkets and shops," said Hoai Huong.

She said the lockdown order in March last year was the first time people in Australia experienced the feeling of having their personal freedom restricted and having to comply with many regulations like wearing face masks in public, keeping a distance of 1.5 meters from each other, closure of restaurants and hotels and working remotely.

But for her family, the second blockade, which lasted from May to the end of October last year, was the period of greatest crisis and pressure. Huong said her husband was working in Queensland at the time and could not return home for more than 1.5 months due to closure of the interstate border. She had to stay at home and manage everything with her two children.

"Life around the house made everyone feel stressed, cramped and terribly bored. Then, my family had to sit together to find solutions to overcome this period together, like cooking our favorite food together or playing soccer," she said.

After a long lockdown that caused a lot of damage both economically and mentally, the government switched to short blockades when a new outbreak was discovered. Specifically, the third lockdown was five days long during Christmas last year, the fourth was three weeks long in mid-May, while the current one began in mid-July.

"I find this lockdown is more effective since it doesn't have as big an impact on life and the economy like the first two waves," she said.

During the current lockdown, people infected with Covid and people awaiting their test results are isolated at home. The hospital only accepts Covid-19 cases with severe symptoms. Violators of quarantine can be fined or even jailed. The Government of Victoria has set up a hotline to provide food support or essentials for confirmed cases and first generation infections while isolating at home.

The fifth lockdown in Melbourne was originally scheduled to last from July 16 to 22, but then had to be extended until the end of July 27 due to a surge of new infections. However, the number of new cases in the state of Victoria has gradually decreased in recent days.

Nguyen Nhung, a Vietnamese student at Monash University in Melbourne, looks forward to the end of the lockdown order so she can resume school and meet her friends again.

"For more than a year and a half, I have not been able to return to Vietnam to visit my family. While here, I live alone, so I am very sad," she said. "We were supposed to start the new school year from this week, but had to study online for the first week because of the lockdown."

With the regulation on social distancing, people are only allowed to go out to buy necessities, exercise within a radius of 5 kilometers, get health checks or get vaccinations. To kill time, Nhung often reads books, watches movies, cleans the house or bakes cakes.

"The weather here is rainy and cold all week. So I've been staying inside to keep warm," she said.

Like many other countries, the lockdown has greatly affected the lives of many workers. However, Nhung said the Australian government also launched support packages for people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

"The government divides the support into two installments from July 16 to 22 and from July 23 to 27. Each person will receive AU$375 (nearly $276) for between eight to 20 hours of work lost in each installment. If someone lost more than 20 hours, the support is AU$600," she explained.

While Victoria is expected to ease restrictions after July 27 thanks to a decrease in the number of infections, the Covid-19 situation in the state of New South Wales (NSW) is still complicated, according to Kim Vuong, a Vietnamese living in Sydney.

"Sydney has entered its fifth week of lockdown, but the epidemic situation has not shown any signs of abating," she said. "Up to 50 percent of new infections are community transmissions."

NSW on July 26 recorded 145 new infections, an increase of four cases compared to the previous day. State officials say they want the number of new infections close to zero before deciding to lift restrictions in Sydney, a city of more than 5 million people living under a blockade order for the past month. Sydney originally planned for the blockade to last until July 30.

"Some regulations may change. We need to be more aggressive in some areas and relax in others," Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian said.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Sydney to protest against the lockdown. Despite the Covid-19 regulations, the crowd of protesters gathered with nearly no one wearing masks. Officials now fear the protest could result in an instance of super-contagion.

Protests against Covid-19 restrictions also took place in Melbourne and many cities across Australia. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described the protesters as a selfish action from a small demographic.

"My family as well as many people in Melbourne are determined to live with the lockdown until the number of people vaccinated to achieve herd immunity," Huong said. "I think in times like these, everyone has to stay calm, support each other and follow the government's epidemic prevention measures."

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