Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

By Huu Khoa, Quynh Tran   June 10, 2021 | 05:31 pm GMT+7
Free meals and "zero dong" stores are among several actions initiated by HCMC to help poorer population segments hit harder by the city-wide social distancing order.
Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

For about a week now, a "zero dong" store has been open in an isolated area on Go Dau Street in Tan Phu District by the Tan Quy Ward People's Committee to supply residents with essential goods like rice, instant noodles, eggs and vegetables.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

At 8 a.m. every morning, volunteers go to the markets to buy food and stock them at the "zero dong" store.

Nguyen Quoc Huy, chairman of the Tan Quy People's Committee, said each day the store provides over 100 kg of vegetables and fruits, hundreds of instant noodle packages, 500 eggs, 160 kg of pork, 40 oil bottles and 100 cans of food.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

The food and goods are placed on the shelves at around 10 a.m. These are enough to sustain over 300 people in 73 families who are living inside the quarantine zone.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

Residents go to the store to collect the food, observing coronavirus prevention measures like wearing masks and sanitizing hands.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

A man from outside the quarantine zone buys and leaves food for those inside

Food is not the only thing the residents are provided with; they receive essential personal items as well, Huy said.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

Starting May 31, when Go Vap District began its social distancing period, Duong Thien Chon's restaurant had to be shut down. Making use of the empty space inside the restaurant, Chon and his employees have cooked free meals for the poorer residents in the area.

Long queues form to collect around 800 meals ready to be served at around 10 a.m.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

Within an 800 square meter space, tables and chairs are arranged so there are two lines of people waiting for the food packets.

"It costs around VND10 million ($435.36) each day to shop for ingredients and cook the food. Everyone has to get up early to prepare the food until noon. While my business has been put on hold, I can still handle it, so I decided to relieve the burden for the poor," said Chon.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

Over 50 people sit at a safe distance from each other, waiting for their turn to get the food packets. With a high number of people, the food runs out in about an hour. When this happens, employees fry eggs as a makeshift item for those unable to get a meal.

Chon said many people have donated rice, spices and other food items after seeing his initiative.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

Men, 54, wears a mask and screen shield while receiving her food. "My income mainly comes from housekeeping, but that job has not been available for half a month now. Every day I come here and take two meals for me and my grandchild, which has helped us to carry on with life," she said.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

For the past week, Phuoc Toan has been driving his car from Thanh Loc Ward in District 12 to deliver 100 meals for soldiers and police officers stationed at Covid-19 checkpoints.

"I can't cook so much rice, so I decided to deliver instead. I also buy milk and other beverages every day for those at the checkpoints as a way to support the frontline workers of our Covid-19 fight," he said.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

Nguyen Duc Cuong, the landlord of an apartment in Go Vap District, prepares rice, oil and fish sauce, along with VND500,000 as gifts to each of the 24 families living in his apartment.

"The pandemic has forced my tenants to stop working, affecting their income. I may not have much, but I do what I can to help them sustain themselves," said Duong as he prepared the items himself.

Amid Covid-19 closures, Saigonese step out to help out

Nguyen Thi Lanh and her 3-year-old daughter receive their gifts from Duong.

"The pandemic has forced me and my husband to stay at home, leaving us with no salary. Since the day I came to Saigon, this is the first time I have received a gift from my landlord. It is heartwarming," she said.

HCMC has recorded 481 local Covid-19 cases so far in Vietnam's latest coronavirus wave, and is the third worst-hit locality after Bac Giang and Bac Ninh. The southern metropolis launched a 15-day social distancing period starting May 31.

 
 
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