Even as they provide the most crucial service of keeping residents supplied with daily essentials, shippers struggle with stress, insecurity and the harassment of frequently changing rules.
At 5 a.m., after learning that shippers were being allowed to resume service, Vu Khac Tiep headed to the local ward medical station to test himself for Covid-19.
Tiep, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, took up this job more than a year ago after his coffee shop had to close down because of the outbreak. He ended up owing the bank nearly VND100 million (around $4,400).
The 27-year-old native of Dak Lak Province in the Central Highlands said he would only drive for a day or two then stop, since he doesn’t like the uncomfortable feeling of having to do nasal swab tests every day.
Besides a negative rapid test result, shippers must have had at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and be on the approved list of the city’s Department of Industry and Trade.
After meeting all these conditions come the biggest challenge for shippers: each Covid checkpoint has a different way of checking travel permits.
As a shipper in the high risk area of HCMC’s Binh Tan District, Tiep has found it hard to keep up with the city’s frequent changes in travel permit rules over the past two months.
A shipper waits to get vaccinated against Covid-19 in District 11, HCMC on August 2, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
After the city banned motorbike taxi drivers from picking up and dropping off passengers and delivering takeaways in early July, Tiep had switched to shipping goods instead.
At the end of that month, new guidelines only let shippersoperate in one district from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Two days later, they were allowed to make inter-district deliveries again. Then, on August 23, the city ordered shippers in high-risk areas to halt their service.
Five days after the city tasked district administrations with buying food for HCMC residents, the proxy shopping model was overloaded with orders and needed support from shippers.
HCMC has undergone a series of social distancing orders, and an ongoing lockdown has banned people from going out since August 23. Food, medications and other necessities were to be delivered to houses by local authorities instead.
However, the high demand became a burden on local authorities, so the municipal trade department proposed that the People’s Committee allows 25,000 shippers to deliver goods.
On August 30, shippers were allowed to return to work on the condition that they test for Covid once a day. Eight days later, shippers were permitted to operate within the district between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Last Friday, HCMC allowed shippers to work from 5 a.m to 9:30 p.m. every day from September 11.
On his first day back on the road, Tiep skipped lunch to take advantage of delivering to more customers. Even though he was already equipped with the new travel permit embedded with QR code, the company’s QR travel pass code, the negative test result and the certificate of Covid vaccination, some checkpoints still didn’t allow him to pass and asked him to turn around.
“Some checkpoints needed me to show just three documents, some asked for four certificates, while some just required me to fill out a medical declaration. When any post did not allow me to pass, I just complied since I was afraid of being fined,” Tiep said.
The very next afternoon, Tiep’s fears came to pass and he was slapped with the fine of VND1 million because he was missing a new travel pass issued by the city’s Traffic Police Department. Just earlier that day, he had been able to plass through checkpoints and had delivered more than a dozen orders.
In a Saigon shippers’ online group with about 130,000 members, many have shared similar personal experiences when making deliveries.
Better hungry than fined
Nguyen Dat, the group’s administrator, said that the reason why many shippers were fined the most was the lack of road permits issued by the city’s traffic police department.
“The bad thing is that you don’t know the procedure for applying for that document. Many have said it is better to stay at home and suffer from hunger than to go out and be fined,” Dat said.
Before being allowed to operate until 9 p.m., many drivers were fined for being on the streets after 6 p.m.
Since some orders were just a few kilometers away, many shippers thought they could make the delivery and return before the night-time restrictions took effect. But since there were many quarantine checkpoints they had to pass through, many ended up not making it back in time and were fined.
Tiep always turned the app off at around 4 p.m. But one day, on his way home, he got a flat tire and had to walk three km to find a repair shop. He yearned for a colleague to pass by so he could seek help. But that day, he did not meet any fellow shipper on that route.
He knew he couldn’t get back before 6 p.m., so he took a picture of himself fixing the vehicle so checkpoint guards would let him pass after seeing his picture. Luckily, they did, that day.
Besides having to deal with problems on the streets, many shippers face rejections when they deliver ordered goods.
Kieu Van Thanh, 32, from Go Vap, said that he sometimes had to travel more than 10 km to reach a customer after finding many ways fenced or blocked.
In one instance, after multiple searches, he managed to reach the nearest blocked road that was closest to the customer’s house. The house was just over 100 meters from the gate, so he called the customer to pick it up, but the customer was adamant that it was delivered right in front of the house.
“If you can’t do as I ask, I will cancel,” the customer said and canceled the order.
So Thanh had to return the goods back to the supermarket about 20 km away from his destination without earning a dime. Thanh said it was very upsetting when customers didn’t sympathize with the work shippers were doing.
Dat said many freelance shippers and ride-hailing shippers who were Covid patients now want to work to earn a living.
Nguyen Hoai Nam, deputy director of municipal health department, said Covid recovered patients were considered a very valuable source of labor because they have antibodies, offering temporary immunity against the virus.
Tiep said that after two days of being fined at the checkpoint, he decided to resume working.
But at the checkpoint, an officer asked to turn back even though he clearly stated the reason.
Back home, Tiep submitted an application to the bank, requesting that the interest rate on his loan be reduced. But, because of late payment a few months ago, his request was denied.
He did not have any money to send back to his parents the last Tet (Lunar New Year festival) and he didn’t dare to return to his hometown.
The next Tet, Tiep said, he plans to celebrate alone, again.
President Phuc proposes solutions to provide vaccines for developing countries
President Nguyen Xuan Phuc has proposed a number of solutions for developing countries to have access to more COVID-19 vaccines at the Global COVID-19 Summit themed “Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better”.
|Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.|
At the invitation of US President Joe Biden, President Nguyen Xuan delivered a speech at the Global COVID-19 Summit held on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 22 (New York time).
Vietnam is one of the few countries to be invited to speak at this important event.
In his speech, the Vietnamese State leader applauded the decision to establish a global health security financial intermediary fund initially worth US$10 billion this year to ensure resources for the battle against the COVID-19.
To cope with the pandemic, protecting people’s lives and health is the top priority so it is imperative to take drastic actions to early detect and quickly trace infection cases; promptly quarantine and provide effective treatment; improve testing capacity; ensure oxygen, ventilators and medicines; and particularly conduct large-scale vaccinations, Phuc said.
He underscored the need to ramp up global cooperation, improve the self-resilience of medical systems and develop the medical equipment production and pharmaceuticals industry, especially in developing nations.
President Phuc stressed that accelerating vaccinations coupled with the effective use of treatment drugs is key to repelling the pandemic, protecting people’s lives, and promoting economic recovery and development.
He suggested improving research and development capacity for vaccine production, while affirming Vietnam’s readiness to engaging in the efforts.
On this occasion, the President expressed his appreciation for the role of the COVAX Facility, and thanked many countries for sharing and donating vaccines to Vietnam.
He called on the COVAX Facility and other capable countries to redouble efforts to supply vaccines to developing countries so that at least 70% of their population are vaccinated as soon as possible and the target is achievable before the session of the United Nations General Assembly next year.
Phuc went to say that Vietnam is conducting a COVID-19 vaccination rollout for all people above the age of 18. Vietnam and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have established a COVID-19 Response Fund last year and recently decided to use US$10.5 million from this fund to buy vaccines for member states.
The summit discussed and issued strong commitments by senior leaders, international organisations and the private sector about mass vaccinations across the globe, protecting people’s lives and building back global medical security better in the near future.
Participants pledged to ensure that at least 70% of the world population in all countries will be fully vaccinated before the session of the UN General Assembly in September 2022, all low or lower-middle income countries will have enough access to oxygen, personal protective suits and effective treatment methods this year and advanced treatment therapies in 2022.
They also vowed to guarantee sustainable financial sources for health security by establishing the global health security financial intermediary fund with an initial sum of US$10 billion in 2021 and consented to set up the Global Health Threats Council.
Senior leaders at the summit shared evaluations and suggestions in President Phuc’s speech. US President Joe Biden and many other leaders also stressed the need for urgent commitments and strong determination from the international community to carry out mass vaccinations for all people across the globe.
VN artists offer free short tutorial videos on YouTube
HCM CITY – Vietnamese artists are offering a series of short tutorial videos called “Cầm – Kỳ – Thi – Họa” focusing on teaching guitar, chess, singing and drawing for beginners on YouTube since mid-September.
All videos lasting around one minute are expected to help audiences to keep up with lessons and improve their skills during social distancing.
Award-winning singer Mỹ Linh will introduce short videos on basic vocal skills for beginners on her channel Mỹ Linh Vocal Coach by the end of September.
The diva said that even if audiences had no intention of pursuing a singing career, learning a new art form could help them stay optimistic and positive amid the pandemic.
Mỹ Linh graduated from the Hà Nội Conservatory of Music (currently Việt Nam National Academy of Music) in 1997.
She was named an impressive singer at the National Young Bands Festival in 1993, and won prizes at the Cống Hiến (Devotion) Music Awards for album and singer of the year in 2005, among others.
She has performed across Việt Nam and toured Japan and Europe, and has released 15 albums.
Linh’s channel has more than 36,000 subscribers and nine videos about singing skills. Her videos are popular and have attracted over 778,000 views.
Having more than 733,000 subscribers, Hiển Râu’s channel from guitarist Nguyễn Thượng Hiển is famous for lessons that help audiences improve skills and play different music genres.
Hiển, who has more than 10 years of experience in playing guitar, introduces one-minute videos in basic skills for beginners.
YouTube viewer Đỗ Bá Sơn said he liked the idea of short videos about guitar tips, and asked Hiển to release more videos because they were very helpful.
Meanwhile, Lo Beo Studio has shared two short videos on drawing an isometric image on its 270,000-subscriber channel.
According to the producers, they did not have enough equipment for producing long videos because they are now staying at home. So they decided to introduce short videos to share detailed steps on scale, arrangement of objects, and more.
Lo Beo Studio will be uploaded at 7pm every Wednesday and Saturday.
Chess player Nguyễn Hoàng Tuấn has presented four videos on how to become a chess player in one minute on YouTube. Tuấn’s videos feature basic tips and moves for beginners, earning nearly 40,000 views.
Tuấn won gold medals at the National Chess Competition for Youth in 1998, and the National Team Chess Championship in 2002 and 2004. He is now coach of the youth chess team of Hà Nội.
He launched his YouTube channel “Dạy chơi cờ vua” (How to Play Chess) in 2015, and now has more than 130,000 subscribers and a total of over 40 million views for 385 videos. —
Vietnamese lensman scores silver at French photo fest
Tran Viet Van scooped silver for his “90 Years Old Shoemaker” photo at “Prix de la Photographie, Paris” (PX3).
Van, a journalist at Lao Dong Newspaper, was honored in the Press/Travel/Tourism category.
The photo captured the moment of 90-year-old shoemaker Trinh Ngoc, who has been making shoes for over 60 years.
Throughout his career, Ngoc has made shoes for many Vietnamese singers and even for the Cambodian royal family, including King Norodom Sihanouk.
In an interview with VnExpress International in 2019, Ngoc said the royals wanted to have shoes with traditional Cambodian traits to wear on special occasions. So he spent days at the museum in Phnom Penh learning local culture and tradition to come up with intricate patterns, using brocade fabric and other traditional materials.
In the 1960s, he was invited to the royal palace about seven times and became well known not only in Cambodia but also in his home country, Vietnam.
According to the PX3 website, when Van asked him what the most important thing in his life was, Ngoc said: “My life is very simple, I just think: If you create joy for others, you will receive double happiness.”
Founded in 2007, “Prix de la Photographie, Paris” is a photography award that strives to promote appreciation of photography, discover emerging talent, and introduce photographers from around the world to the artistic community inParis.
Van has won various photo contests in and outside Vietnam and held solo and group exhibitions in many countries.
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