Vietnamese feel safe with Covid containment measures in Laos, China

By Viet Anh   May 19, 2021 | 06:00 pm PT
Vietnamese feel safe with Covid containment measures in Laos, China
People line up at a coronavirus disease mobile vaccination unit in Beijing, China, April 14, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Thomas Peter.
Vietnamese in China and Laos are confident about authorities' policies to contain Covid-19, but not in Cambodia.

People in Beijing go out for work and other public activities, according to Doan Thi Quynh, a Vietnamese living in the Chinese capital.

"Of course it's not the old normal before Covid-19 existed. Citizens are cautious about the virus transmission risk and very conscious of taking preventive measures."

They follow the government's regulations on wearing masks and keeping a distance from one another in public places.

China has not reopened its borders.

It was the biggest Covid epicenter in early 2020 after the pandemic emerged in Wuhan, but within months life returned almost to pre-pandemic normality.

By Thursday the total number of infections in mainland China stood at 90,908, and the death toll was 4,636.

With vaccines in abundance, authorities have been encouraging people to participate in the free national vaccination program. In the beginning many expressed anxiety about possible side effects, but a majority of Beijing’s residents have been vaccinated by now.

Quynh got the second shot in early May but continues to wear a mask and regularly report her health status.

"I feel more secure after being fully vaccinated."

Doan Thi Quynh is in front of her house in Beijing on May 18. Photo courtesy of Quynh.

Doan Thi Quynh stands in front of her house in Beijing on May 18, 2021. Photo courtesy of Quynh.

In Shanghai, Le Thu Huong said she has not got the vaccine because she is a breastfeeding mother but many people in her city support and are taking part in the vaccination.

Huong saw that things were returning to normal "as if the pandemic had not ever caused serious impacts."

But the local government is still strict with preventive measures, and people are not for instance allowed to use public transport if they do not wear a mask, she said.

Furthermore, China is maintaining tight regulations on immigration, especially at a time when the Indian variant is spreading to various countries.

"I am not worried even if some new cases emerge."

Many Vietnamese in Laos also believe the government can control the situation though an outbreak erupted recently.

It ordered a lockdown from May 5, which Nguyen Hoa My, a Vietnamese living in Vientiane, saw as its usual quick response.

Laos closely follows Covid news from Vietnam and Thailand to ensure trade with them is safe.

The number of cases spiked in Laos in early May following New Year festivities in mid-April, but they began to go down recently.

My said people have better awareness of the danger compared to last year. Everyone wears masks in places allowed to open such as small traditional markets. Workers, including her, go to work in shifts to reduce transmission risks.

Nguyen Hoa My in a selfie taken in Laos.

Nguyen Hoa My is in Plain of Jars, Xiengkhuang Province, Laos in early 2021. Photo courtesy of My.

People in Vientiane seem to prefer the U.K.'s AstraZeneca vaccine over China's Sinopharm, she said. She herself had a first shot in early April and will have the second one in June.

"I am still vigilant because having a vaccine does not ensure that I will not be infected."

Concurring with My about the government's quick action, Canda Sinpaseuth, a Vietnamese Laotian, said he supports the lockdown in the capital because the experience in other countries shows it is easy for the pandemic to get out of control if authorities do not act in time.

As a result the lockdown, the number of new cases declined sharply after the New Year in mid-April, he said.

Since then people have been complying with the rules of mask use in public places and not leaving home unless required, he said.

People in Laos are less skeptical now about vaccination compared to when it was first introduced, as vaccinated people have shown no dangerous side effects. Canda is set to get a Sinopharm shot next week.

Not enough assurance in Cambodia

Nguyen Kien, who lives in Phnom Penh, expressed deep concern because of authorities' "negligence."

They did not order a complete lockdown but instead designated areas with a large number of cases as red zones with strict rules. In other places, people are allowed to go to work.

The authorities do not trace people coming into close contact with patients. Only those who actually test positive are taken to hospital for treatment while others can quarantine at home.

Kien said keeping public spaces open is one reason for the quick spread of the virus.

He got a second shot of Sinopharm in late April, but has not tried to find a job after losing his old one.

"I don't know what else to do but stay at home to avoid the risk of infection."

Pham Thi Hanh, who lives in the same city, also refrains from going out except for work, and only goes to the market to buy food once every 10 days or two weeks.

She too was uneasy in the beginning since she feared things were "not safe enough."

Then she saw authorities begin to test regularly to find new cases and increase the number of programs encouraging people to wear masks and keep social distance.

"I am less anxious now."

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