Lockdown makes samaritans of ordinary folks in northern province

Hoang Lap and his wife picked cucumbers and herbs from their garden, placed them in baskets with a sign saying "Please take for free" and also posted it on social media on the morning of May 8.

The vegetables were meant for people in the community.

Lap said: "Since markets are closed, I think many people will not have vegetables to eat. Since we had produce available, we wanted to share them with other people."

The couple in Phuong Lan 3 village in the northern province’s Luc Nam District were in for a pleasant surprise: dozens of their neighbors also brought vegetables and put them along with theirs.

Free farm-produced crop booths of residents in Phuong Son Commune, Luc Nam District, Bac Giang Province. Photo courtesy of Hoang Lap.

Free vegetables offered by farmers to the community in locked down Phuong Son Commune, Luc Nam District, Bac Giang Province. Photo courtesy of Hoang Lap.

But when they increased beyond a point, he requested village officials to take them and distribute to households isolated at home and poor ones.

Nguyen Van Binh, head of the village, set up a team to receive these and other necessities and money from locals to support epidemic control efforts.

Lap's notebook with the list of households he had distributed items ran out of pages within a week.

After hearing about the program on the community public address, Hoang Thi Quyet, 81, also began to pick and donate vegetables.

Seeing her walk under the scorching sun to donate some vegetables, an official said: "Since you have a blurry vision, if you want to donate vegetables, we will come to your place and harvest them so you will not have to travel here."

The old woman who lives alone told them: "You people have many other things to take care of. This grandma can still do it, so let me help."

Binh said the spirit of the people was a motivation for officials like him to try even harder.

"Sometimes in one day I have to broadcast 15 directives from my superiors through the public address, head to different checkpoints in the hot weather to see if any official needs help. It is hard work, but seeing everyone giving their best, I forget my tiredness."

People in Phuong Son Commune bring fruit in their home garden, drinking water to support guards quarantine checkpoints. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Nhi.

People in Phuong Son Commune take fruits from their garden and water to personnel manning quarantine checkpoints. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Nhi.

From Binh’s village, the movement later spread to 10 other villages in Phuong Son Commune.

Do Ba Cuong, chairman of the commune people's committee, said the epidemic prevention budget is only a bit over VND100 million ($4,300), and nearly half of it was used up during the last wave.

"A person's true character is often revealed in times of crisis. New ideas are born during hardship. Thanks to the support provided by people in the commune, no household has to suffer from hunger."

For three days now the office of the Phuong Son Commune people's committee has been used as a kitchen to serve food to personnel working at the quarantine checkpoints.

Some 10 locals take turns to slice meat, wash vegetables and cook. Just before lunchtime, the food is neatly packed in boxes and taken to the checkpoints.

Truong Thi Tinh, 50, of Phuong Lan 1 village, said: "The commune pandemic prevention fund and donations of money and vegetables have enabled such nutritious meals."

In the first few days of the quarantine period the officials had to eat poor lunches. Seeing the rice they were eating was not good, the Women's Union of Phuong Son Commune set up a cooking group to donate more than 100 meals a day to officials.

In the three days since the group was established Tinh and other members have taken turns to deliver the food. With dozens of lunch boxes on their motorbikes, the women speed under the 40-degree noon sun to the checkpoints.

Tinh said: "When I go home, my face is red and I am very tired from the humid weather. But it is nothing compared to the difficulties faced by the personnel who refighting the epidemic. If every person lends a hand we can quickly stamp out the virus."

Truong Thi Tinh with prepared lunch boxes cooked by members of Womens Union of Phuong Son Commune. Photo VnExpress/Ngoc Nhi.

Truong Thi Tinh with lunch cooked by members of the Phuong Son Commune Women's Union for officials manning Covid checkpoints. Photo VnExpress/Ngoc Nhi.

On May 15, after opening a lunch box containing roasted pork, pumpkin, sausage, and spinach, Hoang Van Hung, a police officer who was on duty, said the food tasted like his mother had cooked it.

In the early days of the outbreak he was worried about having to spend many sleepless nights. But as soon as he got the assignment, locals gave him and other officials at his checkpoint a room with two ceiling fans and a bed to sleep in.

In other places, people rented wedding venues and tents for medics and officials to sleep in.

"Never before have we seen and felt the love of the villagers like this," Hung said.

Since April 27, there have been 1,648 cases of Covid, including 605 in Bac Giang.

The province has decided to shut down four industrial parks until further notice and isolated four out of its 10 districts, Viet Yen, Lang Giang, Yen Dung, and Luc Nam.

The number of people living in the latter is 850,000 people, or nearly half the province's population.

Phuong Son Commune with 8,000 residents has been under lockdown since May 8.



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