Da Nang, Vietnam-As the delta variants of COVID-19 surged in Vietnam in the past two months, the central provinces of the country have experienced the most stringent lockdown measures to date.
According to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, as of Tuesday, the country has recorded 624,547 confirmed cases and 15,660 deaths.
Both foreigners and locals complain that food and water supplies are improperly handled due to restrictions on local motorcycle delivery people known as “shippers.” When a total blockade was announced three days in advance, this caused people to rush to stock up on the local market.
On July 22, the government issued “Directive No. 16”, which is the official notification of the coastal city of Da Nang to comply with the stay-at-home order. According to the new directive, residents cannot leave their homes. Non-essential businesses were closed, food transportation stopped, and residents were not allowed to leave Da Nang without official written permission.
District leaders were mobilized to various neighborhoods to enforce curfews and place orders for food and water delivery to residents. If residents are in the green zone, they can leave within two hours, but they can only stay close to home. Some ward owners provide free groceries, including several different vegetables and instant noodles.
The supermarket aisles were empty, and anxiety about the Wuhan-style blockade began to spread collectively. Foreigners and locals have been panicking and venting their dissatisfaction on online forums.
“If the epidemic becomes so severe, why there is no specific plan for the food supply chain? This is where I am most angry,” said Brian Edwards, a British national who changed his name for privacy. Due to respiratory problems, Edwards dared not go to crowded places such as supermarkets and relied on local contacts to help him get food.
In August, Da Nang color-coded its community based on infection rate data and provided an online map. Large-scale COVID-19 tests are conducted every three days in all wards in spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained. People are beginning to worry that these may become super-spreading events.
Vaccine supply is a problem
Until recently, Vietnam was widely praised for its handling of COVID-19, but the slow launch of vaccines has become its Achilles’ heel. There is a consensus that the Vietnamese authorities rely too much on donated vaccines instead of buying them.
“Most local people want to get vaccinated in Vietnam-maybe not a Chinese-made national medicine-but the introduction of any vaccine is too slow. You know, people just follow orders and rarely give any criticism to the top,” Nguyen Dong said. , A native of Da Nang, changed his name to protect his privacy.
Dong believes that the government is showing signs of nervousness in communicating information to the public, and the strict blockade may continue until next year, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. He said that the authorities will eventually need to stop the strict blockade, allow the country to move towards natural immunity, while allowing the economy to reopen.
Some people worry that the authorities may hoard vaccines and that funds may fall into the wrong hands. Vaccine scams have emerged, and some people have been overcharged for injections or received fake vaccines. As of September, less than 4% of Vietnamese adults had received two vaccinations and 16.5% had received one vaccine. Most vaccines are launched in Ho Chi Minh City, which has the highest case rate in the country. Military personnel have been sent to the city to manage the blockade there.
Many foreigners trapped in Da Nang have encountered problems when renewing their tourist visas. At the same time, due to the strict blockade and lack of domestic and international flights, it is also difficult for them to leave the country.
As of Tuesday, leaving the central provinces of Vietnam requires an air ticket, a COVID-19 test, and a written permission letter from the embassy or city police. Those who leave need to rent a private car to drive them to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, depending on the city of departure. If carpooling, the cost is approximately 7.5 million VND (330 USD) per person, and the journey itself may take up to 24 hours, depending on traffic conditions and the time required to pass through provincial checkpoints.
In Facebook groups, people have been complaining that visa agents charge them too much for extension of visas, or that local immigration officials make them pay excessive fines for overstaying at the airport. The main complaints of foreigners include lack of communication or poor communication between the government and foreigners living in Vietnam, as well as constantly changing rules.
“They (immigration officials) are too corrupt, they will make money from you in any way possible,” a foreigner wrote on Facebook about his recent overseas trip experience.
“There is no reliable information, no one knows what is going on, they keep people from leaving,” said Mark Warth, an Australian national who is eager to leave Vietnam with his wife. His name has been changed to protect his privacy.
The lack of reliable information may have prompted the Vietnamese authorities to open a new hotline for foreigners in Da Nang; however, the response was either slow or non-existent.
Most expats in Da Nang are English teachers. Due to the closure of many local schools and the recent termination of most foreign teaching contracts with online Chinese schools globally, many foreign teachers are in financial trouble. As Vietnam’s economy slows, the situation of the poorest locals has also become worse.
“Many locals are starving and haven’t been paid for a long time,” said Nga Hanh, a local woman who works as a consultant in Da Nang. She changed her name to protect her privacy.
Hanh has a brother who works for the government. Since last year, his salary has been cut in half, but he said he is one of the lucky ones who still have a job.
“Some of my friends in the tourism industry have not worked for more than a year,” Hanh said.
Since the start of the most recent lockdown, her sister, who is a nurse, has been forced to stay in the hospital and work in shifts 24 hours a day, and she has not been paid for overtime.
“For the real poor in my country now, this must be too scary. No one can take care of the poor enough,” Hanh said.