On recovery from Covid-19, Tran Van Tai volunteered at a field hospital, regardless of his parent’s objections.
In the downpour on the evening of Sept. 8, Tai, a resident of Binh Duong’s Thu Dau Mot Town, waited for the bus to bring him home after a long day collecting 560 patient samples and detecting 19 Covid-19 cases.
“Some days we detected hundreds of new cases. I was bombarded with news saying thousands more were found elsewhere, so I couldn’t sleep,” Tai said.
Since the fourth coronavirus outbreak hit Vietnam in late April, Binh Duong has recorded more than 166,000 infections, the second-highest in the country. Cases were detected through screening at medical facilities, isolated areas, and in the community, sometimes with more than 5,000 per day.
Every day, medical staff and volunteers are in a race to collect a huge amount of samples, supported by many recovered patients trained in the process of screening and treatment.
On Sept. 4, Binh Duong decided to “pay wages” to about 1,200 recovered patients who took care of others. This is a valuable source of labor since after recovery, these volunteers have the necessary antibodies to make them temporarily immune to the virus.
Tran Van Tai (middle) and his teammates. Photo courtesy of Tai
Tai became a patient on July 19, and was quarantined for 14 days before going home to self-isolate for another two weeks.
“Seeing so many people fall seriously ill and die, I grew terribly sad. So when I recovered, I applied to join the fight against the pandemic.”
To keep his family safe, he has rented a room and joined the volunteer group of Binh Duong Youth Union. His main job is to take samples, collect information, and input data.
At first, his parents opposed the idea since they were worried their son would be reinfected. Over time they have come to support his decision.
Locations for sample collection are not fixed, causing volunteers to toil under the scorching sun for hours. During breaks, they encourage each other to overcome difficulties and fulfill their tasks, despite the overbearing protective gear.
“Especially in a large, crowded area, we have to try to speak loudly, which can be tiring,” Tai said.
Volunteer groups include many students, some of whom have lost family members to the pandemic.
One volunteer, whose wife and son live only seven kilometers away, has not seen his family since his recovery.
“This pandemic is dangerous, the number of cases is large, prolonged lockdown has weakened everyone’s strength. I will help as long as I can, to share the burden with frontline workers,” Tai stated.
Phuong (wearing white protective clothes) and volunteers in her team. Photo courtesy of Phuong
Similarly, Tran Thi Phuong has volunteered at a medical center in Phu An Ward, Thuan An Town.
“If they’ve never been to the treatment area, it’s hard for people to imagine the hustle and bustle of medical staff, or the devastation of the disease,” Phuong commented. “Many people are healthy but suddenly become seriously ill and die very quickly. Others lie in the ICU for days without any contact with their families.”
Phuong’s first job as a volunteer was screening and separating patients from the community. This task requires volunteers to strictly follow disinfection and safety rules. Working in high-risk areas, they must leave the location immediately after finishing their job before resting or eating.
“Sampling times are not fixed – we go as long as we have a schedule. In the morning, after arrival, we divide into teams, receive protective gear, quick test kits, and prepare for work,” Phuong said.
However, due to a large number of test samples and limited human resources, many volunteers are exhausted. Every three days, they must be tested to prevent the risk of infection among team members.
On Aug. 24, she applied for a position in the isolation area at Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City to support frontline staff.
Phuong keeps a positve mind while working as a volunteer. Photo courtesy of Phuong
Here, she is charged with managing more than 100 patients across two floors. Every day, she and her teammates check their health, measure their blood oxygen, give them medicine, help them breathe, and talk to them so they would feel less lonely.
For her, “this is a way to repay the those who saved my life.”
“I hope that recovered patients and fully vaccinated people would share the burden with the health sector,” Phuong maintained.
Apart from southern Binh Duong Province, more than 1,500 recovered Covid-19 patients have applied to support frontline workers in HCMC. Previously, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son encouraged recovered Covid-19 patients who had acquired temporary immunity from the novel coronavirus to assist in the recovery of others.
As of Wednesday, Vietnam has recorded over 412,650 recoveries in the ongoing wave, which started on April 27.
“We need your support during this decisive period, although we understand you need time to recover from this terrifying disease,” Son said.
Economic crunch forces HCMC lottery vendors to sneak out for a living
Tran Thi Le carefully put her Covid negative test result and proof of vaccination into her fanny pack before taking the risk of selling lottery tickets on the street.
She sold only 30 tickets Thursday morning. At midday, the 52-year-old crouched in the shade of a tree on Nguyen Van Tang Street, Thu Duc City, holding a stack of lottery tickets and waving to the passerby. But after 30 minutes, she had failed to sell any and hopped on her bicycle to relocate.
In Mekong Delta provinces, lottery ticket sellers who have been vaccinated are allowed to operate again. However, in Ho Chi Minh City, lottery tickets are only sold by retailers.
“I know I am not allowed to do so and there is still a risk of infection, but I hoped to earn some money to buy food,” she said.
Tran Thi Le stands on one side of Le Van Viet Street, Thu Duc City, to sell lottery tickets, Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan
Le is among many lottery ticket vendors in the city who have ducked out to try make a living.
More than 12,000 lottery ticket sellers across the southern metropolis have been unemployed since July when the city halted all lottery services. As the Covid situation in Vietnam gradually improved, southern provinces were asked to resume lottery service, the livelihood of many. Lottery firms in Binh Duong, Vinh Long and Tra Vinh provinces draw their first prize Friday and HCMC, on Saturday.
Le and her two children remained in HCMC during the stormy days of the Covid-19 pandemic. With little savings, her family survived the semi lockdown on rice and charitable food donations.
Her landlord agreed to reduce rent by half during the month-long social distancing period, but started charging the full rate since the beginning of this month. Although her family had thrice received the city subsidy, it didn’t last long.
Hearing the news that the lottery would resume, Le was so happy she couldn’t sleep. Even though she had been fully vaccinated, three days ago, she still went to the hospital near her home to get tested for Covid, thinking she would be able to go out selling lottery tickets again with both documents in hand.
But she found the reopening only applied to retailers. After some thinking, she decided to take 150 tickets, way less than the normal amount, and sneak outside.
“Many of my friends have not dared sell lottery tickets for fear of cross infection. But I risked doing so and hope things don’t go south.”
Lottery ticket sellers are classified among the four groups most affected by the pandemic. During a meeting with officials from Thu Duc City and districts earlier this week, Chairman of HCMC People’s Committee Phan Van Mai proposed to look into letting lottery ticket sellers resume work, stating it would open more jobs and increase income.
Tran Thi Nhuong (R) sits on the sidewalk of Le Van Viet Street, Thu Duc City, to sell lottery ticket on the morning of Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan
Le is not alone in her plight. Tran Thi Nhuong, 60, also put her vaccination proof in her coat pocket the night before she decided head back onto the road.
She said the biggest challenge for her is not having enough capital. On Thursday morning, she put a small chair on the sidewalk of Le Van Viet Street, Thu Duc City, and started selling tickets. She strictly adheres to pandemic prevention. Every time she serves customers, she disinfects her hands with sanitizer.
But not long after, local officials came to warn her, saying lottery ticket vendors were not allowed to operate.
“Now, if I want to sell lottery tickets, I need to rent a space. but I don’t have the money to get the tickets already, how will I be able to rent a premises.”
Nguyen Hoa, a customer who just bought two lottery tickets, added: “I’ve had the habit of buying lottery tickets for many years. I usually buy from someone walking down the street.”
Xuan Thy takes a rest after selling all her lottery tickets, Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan
Contrary to Le and Nhu, Xuan Thy, 50, from Binh Thanh District, decided to sell lottery tickets at night, managing to shift 150 in total.
Thy, fully jabbed, makes sure to keep a safe operating distance and sanitize after every transaction. Her husband, also a lottery ticket vendor, is disabled, meaning the family has had little income for many months.
Early in the morning, she visited a few markets, restaurants and shops.
“Someone saw me from afar and waved their hands right away, some said they stopped buying lottery tickets because they are also struggling financially. Others said they would only help me out this once,” she said.
“I’m very happy I managed to sell all my tickets today. But I don’t know how things will turn out tomorrow.”
Indigo clothes – a part of Nùng culture
Traditional costumes have been the pride of the Nùng ethnic community in Yên Sơn District in the northern province of Tuyên Quang for generations.
Compared with those of other ethnic groups, which are normally full of colours and patterns, the traditional costumes of Nùng people are simpler with little embroidery and made of indigo-dyed raw fabric.
Dì Thị Chích, from Yểng Village, said that most Nùng women know how to make their own costumes, which they have been taught by their mothers and grandmothers since a young age. After getting married, they also make clothes for their children and husbands.
The process of making a complete outfit involves many steps, from weaving, dyeing, sewing to embroidering, all of which are completely done by hand.
In the past, Nùng people used to grow cotton for weaving but now they buy ready-made white fabric at markets and dye it themselves.
Indigo is a common plant in Việt Nam’s northern provinces. The plants are soaked in water, ground up, and sifted to produce indigo powder.
According to Nùng Thị Hường from Khăm Kheo Village, one of the most sophisticated steps is dyeing the cloth. Each dyer has her own formula for mixing the dye to create a distinctive deep blue colour.
The cloth is taken out of the jar of indigo dyed water and dried, then soaked in the jar again until it obtains a satisfactory shiny colour, which could take up to a month. Meanwhile, the whole process of making a complete traditional costume might take around two months.
The Nùng people do not normally wear their traditional indigo costumes in daily activities like before due to the abundance of ready-made clothes nowadays, but they are indispensable in every festival or new year celebrations of the community.
“The costume manifests the skillfulness of its makers and our culture. Therefore, wearing them is also our joy and pride,” Hường said. —
HCM City kickstarts domestic travel with closed tours to safe destinations
The HCM City tourism sector has co-operated with travel firms and destinations in the city to promote online booking and payment solutions. It has collaborated with Traveloka Vietnam and Shopee Việt Nam to support the city’s digitalisation process and promote travel products and communications campaigns. Thu Hằng reports.
Vaccinated locals from HCM City are now eager to travel again to relieve the pandemic’s mental strain after more than four months of pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Vũ Văn Phú, 25, spent a joyful day with his colleagues on a one-day trip to the Bà Đen Mountain Relic and Cultural complex in the southeastern province of Tây Ninh.
He was one of 105 travellers who joined the first closed tour from HCM City to Tây Ninh after more than four months of travel restrictions.
“The trip was a reward that my company offered employees who have spent months working and staying at the company during the pandemic.”
“In the past four months, we had to work and stay at the company. It’s definitely a relief to finally step out of HCM City to get some fresh air. This trip partly satisfied my wanderlust and made me feel like everything is gradually returning to normalcy.”
“My company plans to organise a beach trip for employees and their relatives to the (southern coastal) city of Vũng Tàu in the next few days.”
Tourists can visit the sacred Bà (Lady) Temple on the mountainside of Bà Đen Mountain and go by cable car up to the Bà Đen mountaintop at the height of 986 metres.
The one-day tour for domestic travelers who have received two COVID-19 vaccine doses from HCM City to Bà Đen Mountain in Tây Ninh is part of an effort to resume travel linkages between the two localities under agreed health protocols.
Trương Quang Hùng, director of Tây Ninh Province’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that vaccinated travelers from HCM City can now join a group tour to visit Bà Đen Mountain.
It has not received individual tourists due to concerns over safety as the vaccination rate in the province remains low.
All staff working at the Bà Đen Mountain Relic and Cultural complex and tour guides are fully vaccinated.
More tourist sites in the province will reopen for domestic travelers when local residents are fully vaccinated. Around 76 per cent of its adult population have taken one shot.
Nguyễn Ngọc Tấn, general director of Saco Travel, said the closed tour for more than 100 tourists from HCM City to Tây Ninh kickstarted his company’s operation after months of suspension due to travel restrictions.
The company’s staff are fully vaccinated and have been trained in COVID-19 prevention and control by the HCM City Centre for Disease Control.
Saco Travel is also planning to organise tours from HCM City to central provinces and the northern province of Hà Giang, he said.
Phased plan for recovery
HCM City has revealed a three-phase plan to revive its tourism sector, seeking a “travel bubble” with many cities and provinces as case numbers in the country continue to drop.
Nguyễn Thị Ánh Hoa, director of the city’s Department of Tourism, said inter-provincial tours from HCM City to Tây Ninh would be the first step in the launch of a programme to revive the tourism sector.
In the first phase, the city will open tours to “green”, or safe, areas with a low infection risk and pilot closed tours to Tây Ninh Province this month to gradually resume tourism activities.
Tourist accommodations and tourist sites will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity.
In the second phase from the beginning of next month until year-end, inter-provincial group tours will be expanded to safe destinations nationwide.
In the third phase next year, tourism activities and products in the city will fully resume.
With a high rate of vaccinations for adult and 80 per cent of employees in the travel sector fully vaccinated, HCM City authorities plan to revive domestic travel with more inter-provincial tours to safe destinations nationwide.
The city is working with tourism authorities in the central provinces of Khánh Hòa, Phú Yên, and Bình Định to open closed tours to safe destinations for domestic travelers.
Public-private cooperation and close linkages of 30 travel operators and tourist destinations in the city are key factors in the revival of the tourism sector, she said.
Nguyễn Minh Mẫn, marketing and communications director of TSTtourist, told Việt Nam News: “His company last week resumed operation, with about 40 per cent of staff returning to work. They are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”
The company on October 11 opened tours to safe destinations in the city and received many inquires about group tours to Củ Chi and Cần Giờ districts in HCM City and the coastal city of Vũng Tàu.
Family groups mostly booked tours to travel later this month and next month.
Inter-provincial tours from HCM City to neighbouring provinces such as Tây Ninh, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Long An, and Tiền Giang and central provinces of Khánh Hoà, Phú Yên, and Bình Định will soon resume under tourism linkages between HCM City and these localities, he said.
TSTtourist is updating information from other localities on safety requirements to offer tourists closed tours to safe destinations in other provinces. This is a positive sign for expected demand in the year-end season.
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