Hanoians hunker down again over new Covid wave fears

His morning run has been Nguyen Thanh Quang's favorite activity for several years now, and he never misses it, regardless of the weather.

But since this week, the 34-year-old teacher has halted his morning exercises, worried that the number of new Covid-19 cases in the capital city would keep rising.

"We are in the fourth wave, so I was trying to keep my life as normal as possible. But once the city shut down food and beverage establishments, I know it is time to be seriously vigilant," he said, adding he had bought two boxes of masks last weekend.

"The threats is everywhere. I have a bad feeling about this outbreak," Quang said, adding that he misses exercising outside.

Many Hanoians are anxious about the latest disruption to their family and office lives, uncertain of what lies ahead with several infection clusters and unknown sources of infection.

Hanoian walks outside Nghia Do Park in Cau Giay District. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh.

A man walks outside the Nghia Do Park in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh.

All of the 17 different samples of Covid-19 patients that have been decoded have been confirmed to be infected with the Indian strain, B.1.617.2, which is said to spread faster and pose more danger.

In most cases, the patients had visited different places and come into contact with many others in various places before they were confirmed with the virus, so it is likely that more cases linked to them will be found in the coming days, Hoang Duc Hanh, deputy director of Hanoi's Department of Health, said at a meeting Tuesday.

Many fearful Hanoians are avoiding going out or gathering outside even as summer approaches.

"My friends and I have stopped biking in the afternoon, we are now scared of this Indian variant," said 25-year-old Nguyen Phuong Dung, who used to bike around the West Lake with a group of friends every day.

Downtown streets and stores have become very quiet, especially after local eateries and cafes have been denied serving guests on the premises. They can only offer takeaways.

Photos of deserted streets have gone viral on Facebook, with many netizens comparing the scene to the Tet holiday when there is an exodus of people from the urban areas to their rural homes.

Usually bustling wet markets and supermarkets are also cloaked in silence as shoppers stay indoors.

"I have had only five clients since the morning, two of them wore gloves while shopping," Nguyen Thi Hoa, working at a stall in the Aeon mall in Long Bien District, said Wednesday afternoon.

People wait to make health declarations in Hanoi, May 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

People wait to make health declarations in Hanoi, May 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

Lifetime events changed

The fourth Covid-19 wave has pushed Nguyen Van Tan, 31, to cancel his engagement ceremony next week and the wedding in the following weeks.

"People would rather stay at home and away from public spaces now," he explained. "At first I thought a small ceremony would be okay, but the pandemic keeps getting worse."

This is the second time that Tan has postponed his engagement ceremony. The first time was in early February, when a Covid-19 outbreak happened in the northern province of Hai Duong.

For parents, the disruption has been even more difficult to handle. The children’s summer holidays have started much earlier than expected, which has made it difficult to take care of them, even to find babysitters.

"We do not want to send our son anywhere or ask for help from my relatives, because the new variant is dangerous, so my husband and I take turns to stay at home with him," said one mother in Cau Giay District who did not want to be named.

Many plans have been scuppered amid the new outbreak.

Nguyen Thu Thuy, 37, who was having her house built, is stuck as many of the workers have left the city due to fears over the novel coronavirus.

She is worried too, and does not dare to go shopping for new furniture.

"We will have to wait until the outbreak is contained," she said, sighing, pointing at her incomplete house with unpainted walls.

It is not just domestic life that has been disrupted. Safety concerns and fear of the virus have also shaken up office and work life, affecting millions.

With the novel coronavirus spreading quickly among workers in industrial parks in neighboring Bac Giang Province, many factories and workers in Hanoi have become very vigilant.

Some companies in Hanoi have let their employees work from home, worried about their having come into contact with Covid-19 patients.

"Workers still need to go to the factory for production, but we have cut the number of people to maintain distance among them," said Nguyen Thi Phuong, HR officer at a paper-producing company in Long Bien District.

While some people continue to remain calm about the crisis, working out in public places or riding their motorbikes without masks, they are few and far between.

Most people are on their guard and pay careful attention to updates put out by local authorities, who have warned that the city faces a high risk of Covid-19 spreading further.

In the past week, the city has detected 33 cases linked to a cluster at the T&T Group in Hoan Kiem District and the Park 9 Block of the Times City residential area in Hoang Mai District. The transmission sources for these clusters have not yet been established.

Hanoi has so far reported 351 cases in the new Covid-19 wave. Of these, 139 have been detected in two hospitals under lockdown – the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the K Hospital that specializes in cancer treatment.

Faced with the surge in infections, the city ordered food and beverage establishments as well as hair salons and beauty parlors closed, starting Tuesday.

Food and beverage places can only allow takeaways and residents have been told to "absolutely stop" entertainment activities, physical exercises and large gatherings in parks, gardens and public locations.

While Hanoi Party chief Dinh Tien Dung said Tuesday that a citywide social distancing order is not in the picture yet, many residents are deciding to curb their activities as if a lockdown was in place.

Among the people hard hit by the latest closure are small businesses.

Hoang Minh, who closed his hair salon on Quan Thanh Street Tuesday, had already let five employees go and retained only one to cut expenses with reduced business. Now he is even more despondent.

"Summer time brings the best business for me, but now I feel hopeless, again."



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