Government to distribute food from national reserve to pandemic-hit people

By Viet Tuan    August 18, 2021 | 10:20 pm PT
Government to distribute food from national reserve to pandemic-hit people
Le Thi My Hong, her husband and daughter, take a rest near a Ho Chi Minh City's gateway as they try to leave the city for their hometown in the central Binh Dinh Province, August 15, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The government has decided to use the national food reserve and will consider using the trade union fund to provide relief assistance to poor people in Covid-19-hit areas.

Addressing a government meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said the fight against the pandemic so far "has not achieved the results expected" though authorities, the public and businesses "have tried hard and made a lot of efforts."

To continue the fight, the country must succeed in achieving social distancing, and for that, all cities and provinces applying it should ensure people do not lack food or shelter and so that they "stay where they are right now," he said.

For that to work, the government would use food from the national reserve, he said.

He called on the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor to consider using the trade union fund to support workers who have lost jobs or had their contracts suspended.

On August 16 the government had told provinces and cities with social distancing to identify people in need to provide them with rice.

On the same day it had provided more than 4,100 tons of rice to people in need in the three southern provinces of Binh Phuoc, Bac Lieu and Soc Trang.

The Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs on Wednesday suggested that the government provide another 130,000 tons of rice to feed 8.6 million people facing hunger in 24 cities and provinces, mostly in southern Vietnam. These localities, including HCMC, Da Nang, and Can Tho, had asked for more than 216,000 tons of rice.

Vietnam, hit by a fourth Covid-19 wave, the most challenging it has faced since the pandemic started, in late April has had 297,921 cases including 6,735 deaths.

Ho Chi Minh City is the epicenter with nearly 160,000 infections.

The city switched to Directive 16 on July 9 after having the less stringent Directive 15 since May 31.

Last Sunday it announced another month’s extension, prompting hundreds of migrants to leave the city on motorbikes.

Many lamented that they have been stuck in rented housing in the city for three months and not been able to earn a living, and the only solution for them now is to leave for their hometowns. But authorities did not let them leave, fearing a risk of infection spread, and told everyone to return to their lodgings.

Directive 16 has also been imposed in 18 other southern cities and provinces, Hanoi, Da Nang and other localities across the nation, banning people from leaving home except for "essential purposes" like buying food and seeking medical treatment or to work at places still allowed to operate.

The government disbursed a second Covid-19 relief package, worth VND26 trillion ($1.13 billion), in July after the first one of VND62 trillion ($2.6 billion) it rolled out in April last year.

But many people, especially factory workers, have complained that the documents needed to prove they have been affected by the pandemic have caused them difficulties to access even the first package.

Last year more than one million workers received VND17.9 trillion in unemployment benefits, half up from 2019, according to the Vietnam Social Security.

Three months after they lose their jobs, people with social insurance can apply for unemployment benefits.

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