Expats look forward to 'sensible' normalcy after Tet

By Viet Anh   February 10, 2022 | 06:00 am PT
Expats look forward to 'sensible' normalcy after Tet
A Russian man and his girlfriend walk at Nguyen Hue flower street, a Lunar New Year attraction, in HCMC on January 29, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Expatriates are very happy that they could travel and meet during the Lunar New Year holiday. They are hoping, though, that caution accompanies the country's reopening moves.

"My family and I drove to Can Gio beach and met friends inside the city to enjoy Tet. I am very happy that we could do it amidst Covid," said Hannah Jefferys, a British businesswoman living in HCMC.

Vietnam just celebrated its biggest holiday after a year of prolonged Covid lockdowns. The festivity returned almost to pre-Covid period, with big crowds seen in major cities and tourist destinations.

Health officials have warned that the surge in travel during the holidays could result in more Covid-19 infections, especially severe cases, putting pressure on the healthcare system.

Foreigners in major Vietnamese cities were not so worried. They said they are optimistic with the quick recovery, as long as it happens with caution.

Jefferys said Vietnam is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world and people around her were "being sensible about avoiding infection risks."

As a businesswoman, she said she did not want a return of restrictions that heavily affects business.

Valentin Orange, a Frenchman living in Hanoi, and his Vietnamese wife went to Son Tay, 40 kilometers away from the capital city, to celebrate Tet with her big family.

"I was delighted that we could hang out and cheer in the streets like we are back to normal."

Orange said the Tet travel rush was predictable but he supposed there would be less severe cases like in Europe after Christmas holidays when most of Vietnam's population got two shots of vaccine. Therefore, he looked forward to seeing people "live with Covid and move on."

British woman Yasmin Carmen McMahon, another Hanoi expat, was all about living her life again and moving on.

She traveled to Da Nang and Hoi An during the holiday, where she saw people were having a good time while still being careful.

Yasmin Carmen McMahon in Hoi An during Tet. Photo courtesy of Yasmin Carmen McMahon

Yasmin Carmen McMahon in Hoi An during Tet. Photo courtesy of Yasmin Carmen McMahon

McMahon said both her income and quality of life had been affected adversely by the pandemic. As it was not going away in the foreseeable future, she wanted to enjoy life again in a safe way.

"Taking precautions is important but this special time will never come back, so spending it with loved ones is also significant."

American Granger Whitelaw in HCMC was more cautious.

He said he was comfortable with "living with Covid" given Vietnam's high vaccination rate.

But after seeing high travel demand during Tet, he was concerned that there might be another wave in Vietnam. So he would limit going out for the next few weeks.

Hope for normalcy

Srimanta Jena, an Indian in Hanoi, was busy managing his restaurant during Tet and felt good watching people behaving like before the pandemic.

Jena said he hoped things would become more normal in Vietnam next month, but also wanted authorities to implement strictly the regulations on wearing masks and limiting the gathering of people in large numbers.

The expats hope Vietnam can start opening further, particularly to facilitate international travel.

Despite being cautious, Whitelaw said he supported Vietnam resuming activities for economic benefit. Tourists from other countries should be welcomed because tourism is a major source of national revenue; and foreign investors and skilled workers need to be allowed to enter Vietnam for business development, he said.

Jefferys also wished that authorities would hurry up and open more flights and services for tourism. This would facilitate family reunions after long separations and enable people like her to fly home.

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