Covid lockdowns leave Saigon workers indigent

By Le Tuyet   June 4, 2021 | 08:00 pm PT
Covid lockdowns leave Saigon workers indigent
Workers at a high-tech park wait for coronavirus tests in Thu Duc City, HCMC, June 3, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong.
Workers in HCMC have been hit hard by the latest Covid-19 outbreak, without incomes as factories close.

Several days ago, to save expenses as much as possible, Nguyen Hong Nghi and her husband decided to cut their family’s daily meals to just two.

She is a worker at the Minh Hoang Garment JSC in HCMC's Go Vap District. She and 100 other workers have been at home for one week after the company decided to suspend production following the discovery of a Covid-19 cluster in the district.

On May 26 it was found at a Christian congregation called the Revival Ekklesia Mission. Infections were first detected among its members before the virus spread quickly from them to 21 of the city's 22 districts, and to other provinces in the south and Central Highlands.

"The news [of the factory’s closure] came as a great shock to me," Nghi, a native of the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, said.

By that time her husband had been jobless for almost a month and the family of four, including their two children, relied completely on her income of VND5 million (less than $220) a month. He is a mason, but construction has reduced sharply in the city due to the pandemic, putting people like him out of work.

Before leaving the factory Nghi and all the other workers were given an advance payment of VND3 million, and that is all her family has left now since they have no savings, she says.

So, for almost a week now, the family eats once at 10 a.m. and once at 4 p.m.

Nguyen Hong Nghi prepares a meal for her family of four at a rented apartment in Go Vap District, HCMC, June 2021. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

Nguyen Hong Nghi cooks a meal for her family of four at her house in Go Vap District, HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong.

The family left Can Tho for HCMC three years ago, and for almost half the period has suffered from the economic impacts of the pandemic.

"My two children’s school fees, rent, food, electricity bill, water bill, other costs," Nghi lists when asked about their expenses.

She plans to ask their landlord to delay this month’s rent and will promise to pay it once she gets her job back.

Hoang Thi Anh Tuyet, a worker at Vina Kitchenware JSC in Tan Phu District, has not seen her child for a week now since her factory is under lockdown after one person was found infected through someone at the Christian mission.

"These are days I can never forget," Tuyet, 36, says.

On Friday last week, when she arrived at the factory, it was announced that a worker had tested positive for Covid, and a two-week lockdown was announced shortly afterward. Besides, everyone who had been in direct contact with the infected workers were sent to quarantine facilities.

All Tuyet could do was call her husband and tell him to bring her some clothes and other personal items, and to take good care of their toddler.

Workers at Vina Kitchenware JSC in HCMCs Tan Phu District receive sleeping nets and blankets to stay at the factory which is put under lockdown for two weeks since May 26, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Pho

Workers at Vina Kitchenware JSC in HCMC's Tan Phu District receive mosquito nets and blankets for staying at the factory which has been locked down for two weeks since May 26, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Pho.

Eight hundred workers stay inside the factory, worrying if they could have been exposed to the virus in any way, and missing their families.

The company has agreed to cover the cost of their food and other needs during the period.

Nguyen Thi Bach Yen, chairwoman of the Go Vap District Labor Confederation, said the district has nearly 25,000 factory staff, and around 400 are directly affected by the economic impacts of the current Covid wave.

The union is providing essential products like rice and cooking oil for them to tide over this difficult period.

The Vietnam General Confederation of Labor has approved emergency support for affected workers, and each will get VND3 million. Those with financial issues and staying in quarantine camps will get another VND1.5 million.

HCMC has 1.6 million workers, of whom 280,000 work in companies in export processing zones and industrial parks and 45,000 in its hi-tech park in District 9.

In the last 10 days three Covid-19 cases have been found at the Tan Binh, Tay Bac and Vinh Loc industrial parks and four others at a company in the Quang Trung Software Park in District 12.

Since large numbers of workers congregate in industrial complexes, the city has deemed them a Covid risk.

It has recorded 324 cases so far in the fourth wave that broke out in the country in late April.

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