Vietnamese student in Beijing survives coronavirus induced isolation

By Viet Anh   February 19, 2020 | 04:56 am PT
Vietnamese student in Beijing survives coronavirus induced isolation
People walk through Jianguomen subway station in Beijing on February 3, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins.
Fear of the coronavirus has forced Trang’s roommates to return home, leaving the Vietnamese student to face winter on her own.

In the middle of February, the Chinese capital enters a period of intense winter with heavy snowfall and temperature dropping to -5 degrees Celsius.

On the fifth floor of the university dorm, Tran Thu Trang, a PhD student, is alone. Since the end of January, university classes and libraries have been closed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Those who returned home for Lunar New Year were asked to remain.

Trang and those who stayed behind in the metropolis were required by the university not to leave campus, or leaving after filing detailed reports.

After learning about the university quarantine last month, a confused Trang freaked out. After 5 years in China, it was the first time Trang had faced such upheaval.

After a few sleepless nights, the Vietnamese student decided to stay in Beijing instead of leaving for her homeland.

"After consideration, I opted to stay behind. What if I got infected and spread the virus to my family. That is too risky," she explained.

With her friends, including 19 Vietnamese students, busy preparing to leave, Trang kicked off her "survival" plan by borrowing a refrigerator from a friend, buying more food, as well as other essentials. She joked that apart from finishing her PhD. thesis, sleeping and eating have become primary responsibilities.

The dormitory management board provides residents with three masks per day, and a thermometer to measure body temperature. All are asked to clean their hands regularly and avoid crowds. The campus is also sanitized three times a day.

When it comes to food, a canteen and a grocery store operate twice a week, selling food and drinks at regular prices. Although the university allows online orders and deliveries, Trang avoids using the service in fear of infection. Instant noodles and cakes help her "maintain her source of food."

About 40 students remain in the same building, though Trang has met none. Since January 26, she has not left her dormitory.

However, as everything has two sides, there is one thing Trang has enjoyed so far. The quiet and tranquility help her concentrate on finishing her Ph.D. thesis, even though the library’s closure has proved an obstacle.

During this period, Trang has kept in touch with around 50 other Vietnamese students and the Vietnamese embassy in Beijing.

There is one daily mission that she never forgets: Talking with her family in Vietnam and telling them to be careful amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

"I am in Beijing, but I worry for people at home," Trang maintained, hoping the epidemic will be over soon.

The majority of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus have occurred in China. 

As of Wednesday, the global death toll had climbed to 2,009 and confirmed infections topped 75,000. Over 14,500 patients have recovered.

Vietnam officially declared the novel coronavirus outbreak an epidemic on February 1 and has confirmed 16 cases of infection. Eleven of the patients have since recovered and been discharged.

go to top