'Zero supermarkets' sprout in epicenter Bac Giang Province

By Pham Nga   June 2, 2021 | 04:59 am PT
Twenty one 'zero supermarkets' have sprung up in Covid-19 hotspot Bac Giang, supplying thousands of stranded workers.

A few days ago, Nguyen Thi Hop, owner of 39 inn rooms, where 59 workers are being isolated, became a "transporter" while picking up supplies at "Zero supermarkets."

Hop received 59 sets of supplies, including fish sauce, cooking oil, sugar and some sanitary napkins for women.

Innkeepers sign in a roster sheet at the village communal house in Nenh Town, Viet Yen District, Bac Giang Province, before receiving necessities for isolated workers.

Innkeepers register at the village communal house in Nenh Town, Viet Yen District, Bac Giang Province, before receiving necessities meant for isolated workers. Photo by VnExpress/Le Minh Thong.

After picking up the supplies, Hop called on family members to deliver them to the workers.

Since the supermarket was established in Nenh Town on May 22, Hop and nearly 400 innkeepers in My Dien 1 residential area have thrice gone to the communal yard to "shop" for more than 10,000 workers in their care.

Venturing out when the risk of infection is high, the mother of three young children cannot bear seeing the quarantined workers facing shortages of necessities.

At her place, many workers have run out of money in the absence of advanced salaries, including two pregnant workers. Thanks to the free supermarket, the workers have more food to eat during the day, and the two pregnant women have fresh milk to drink.

Pregnant Tran Thi Phuong, a worker at Dinh Tram industrial park, said: "I have morning sickness, it's a bit difficult to eat certain food. Thanks to the 'Zero supermarket', I have received milk, meat and eggs to improve the quality of my diet."

With little options, Nguyen Ba Linh, chairman of Nenh Town's Fatherland Front, is determined to "not to let anyone go hungry or thirsty."

After five days of opening, the supermarket has attracted attention from more donors and sponsors. Thanks to their support, in addition to food, the supermarket had a number of other items delivered like soap, shampoo and women's necessities.

Working for the "Zero supermarket" along with about 20 other employees, Phung Thi Ly, head of the Women's Union of My Dien 1, is most worried about balancing and keeping a fair share of the food portion.

"I have to divide it equally. For example, when spending VND20,000 ($0.87) on each package, I have to calculate so they have all the necessary things," she said, wiping away her sweat.

The idea of setting up a "Zero supermarket" was implemented by the donors outside Bac Giang, with the goal of supporting more than 30,000 people stuck in the province. Ten supermarkets simultaneously opened on May 22 in two districts of Viet Yen and Yen Dung. On May 27, the number of supermarkets increased to 21, concentrated in areas with a large number of workers. Supplies are donated by local unions, benefactors and businesses.

In order to receive donated supplies, innkeepers must list the names of workers, with their temporary residence paperwork. Staff will sort and divide the necessities they currently have in stock. In addition, innkeepers can also recommend special goods workers are in need of. Once done preparing these necessities, staff will take turns calling on groups of innkeepers to collect it to ensure there are no crowds.

If in Nenh Town, landlords go to the communal house to "shop" for isolated workers, then in Hong Thai Commune in Viet Yen District, where there are more than 1,000 workers, goods are delivered to each inn.

Sitting on a delivery truck at noon, Than Thi Ha, 22, reminded the driver of households that had not received goods. The vehicle was borrowed by the village chief from a local resident, and has traveling around Hung Lam 1 for five days to distribute necessities.

Volunteers deliver necessities to landlords for isolated workers in Hong Thai Commune. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Thi Ha.

Volunteers deliver necessities to isolated workers in Hong Thai Commune. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Thi Ha.

Ha is a resident of Hung Lam 1 and employed at the Dinh Tram industrial park. After quitting her job and listening to her colleagues tell of their struggles to get through the day, she volunteered to work for the "Zero supermarket" project along with nine others.

Early each morning, the supermarket opens at the same time as the charity convoy arrives. In the delivery truck, there are many green vegetables. Afraid these greens might wither, volunteers would quickly carry them inside. Without a break, three volunteers sat down on the floor to divide rice, peanuts, eggs, and salt into bags to distribute, while the rest took care of the shipment list.

Today's cart they can divide into more than 500 meals, giving half of the workers in the village enough to eat for four days. The next day, they would allocate the other half. Volunteers in Ha's group use loudspeakers or telephones to let landlords know to collect the goods left in front of their inns.

Even though Ha does not make direct contact with any isolated workers, their thank you texts and advice to stay healthy helped energize and keep her moving.

"Every day, I remind my colleagues to stay home and follow preventive measures. If there is anything missing, contact the innkeeper, we will try our best to accommodate requests," she said.

go to top