Worry, stress and fears: Vietnamese in Spain struggle with Covid-19

By Viet Anh   March 20, 2020 | 03:45 am PT
Worry, stress and fears: Vietnamese in Spain struggle with Covid-19
A couple wear protective face masks as they walk in unusually quiet Postas street in central Madrid, Spain, March 13, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Sergio Perez.
Vietnamese citizens in virus-hit Spain have experienced stressful days, facing mounting fears over contracting the novel coronavirus and suffering economic losses.

"I was extremely worried that my husband's nephew was confirmed Covid-19 positive, though the doctor asked him to remain isolated at home," Tran Thi Thu Thuy, a resident of Madrid, told VnExpress.

The 40-year-old nephew doesn’t live in the same house with Thuy’s family. He had his Covid-19 test carried out last week and worked normally while awaiting results.

Doctors in Spain said anyone showing mild symptoms of Covid-19 infection need only take paracetamol to reduce fever and follow general guidelines. The hospital was only for severe cases.

Spain was one of the worst-hit countries by the Covid-19 pandemic outside mainland China, with over 18,000 infections and 837 fatalities as of Friday. The country also became the second largest Covid-19 hub in Europe, after Italy, prompting the Spanish government to shut its land borders to contain the spread.

Since March 14, the country has been under lockdown after a state of emergency was declared. All residents must stay at home except when going out to buy food, medicine or attend work or visit hospital. All entertainment activities are suspended and those violating regulations could be fined hundreds of dollars.

Thuy believed the lockdown highlighted the seriousness of the disease.

Spanish eventually stood apart in public but rarely used face masks. However, the number of commuters taking the subway remained the same as usual. Most people still have to work.

Thuy registered to buy face masks and dry hand sanitizer several days ago, but remains waiting for her delivery.

She grew alarmed when learning criminals posing as Spanish Ministry of Health officials were entering homes with the purposes of robbing them.

Also stuck in Madrid, Nguyen Phuong Thao said she felt very stressed with the rapid spread of Covid-19, forcing the government to mobilize the army to apply its anti-epidemic campaign.

Thao said the increasing number of Covid-19 infections in Spain resulted in the gathering of crowds. 

Besides, people could easily travel from one Schengen state to another in the absence of borders. The Schengen area is a border control-free zone comprising 26 European countries

Thao observed the first cases in Spain were those traveling from Italy, the second largest outbreak hub in the world after mainland China and the largest in Europe.

Recently, supermarkets in Madrid became overcrowded, forcing Thao to queue up for ages in order to buy the bare necessities.

For many, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on livelihoods.

Thuy’s nail salon is empty and had no customers. She spent most of her time looking after her children and kept her home clean, waiting for the threat to lessen.

"I didn't go out to avoid infection. The lockdown is for that purpose," Thuy said. She hopes the Spanish government would close all offices, allowing workers to work remotely to contain the disease.

Thao, who organizes tours, received many cancelations. The most recent case were three tours to Vietnam, including a delegation of 30 people. "My job is seriously affected but I have to accept it, because it's a general situation," she noted.

In Granada, the famous tourist city in southern Spain, Nguyen Tran Trung said he was quite surprised when the government imposed a nationwide blockade. "I didn't think the disease would become so dangerous and serious."

At the hotel where Trung is employed, bookings have been few and far between during a normally peak period. He worries the local economy "would crumble."

Tourism, considered a major source of income, which helped Spain to cope with previous economic crises, is suffering heavy losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Beaches, shopping centers and outdoor leisure activities are all shut down.

Compared to some Vietnamese friends, Thao feels "more fortunate to be living inher husband's house." Some Vietnamese students lost part-time jobs because many restaurants closed, while still paying rent. Their health insurance does not cover costs related to the disease.

Meanwhile, immigrants waiting for an official residence card have been denied, although they had to work hard to complete the process, she added.

Thao said Spanish also faced many difficulties. People on long-term contracts can take paid leave, but seasonal workers are forced to find other jobs to cover living expenses. Many are still dealing with debts related to the 2008 crisis.

And for many Vietnamese in Spain, the journey back home is also a challenge since the European Union closed all borders for 30 days starting from Wednesday while Vietnam Airlines, the only carrier in Vietnam with direct flights to European countries like England, Germany and France, is set to suspend all international operations until the end of April.

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