|Authorities come to aid of stricken foreigners |
While most of their relatives back home have been vaccinated already, more than 210,000 non-nationals living and working in Ho Chi Minh City wish to be vaccinated soon.
The municipal People’s Committee has agreed to conduct vaccinations for foreigners within its capacity and resources, according to the Department of Health. Since August, District 7 has implemented a pilot programme to vaccinate about 18,000 foreigners living in the district. The vaccines being used are either AstraZeneca or Moderna, depending on the health status of the recipient in accordance with doctors’ prescription.
At the inoculation site at Phu My Hung Sale Gallery, one South Korean national said that although he has worked and lived in Ho Chi Minh City for a long time, he had previously been worried about the lack of information about the procedures.
After the first shot in early August, he was surprised and said, “Many people thought that foreigners would not get the same medical care as locals, but now I am really happy. I’d like to says thanks for everything,” he said.
Devlin, an American teacher in District 7, said that when he received the notice for his vaccination, he shouted with joy. The school where Devlin is teaching registered him for vaccination.
“As a foreigner, I was quite sensitive in being vaccinated before many Vietnamese citizens, but that day nobody looked at me in a negative light or asked why it might be the case,” Devlin added.
District 7’s Party Committee Secretary Vo Khac Thai stated that foreigners have contributed a lot to the city’s economy and culture, and local authorities consider vaccinating foreigners in the city against COVID-19 as a necessary task, especially in District 7. The large-scale vaccination campaign for foreigners in the district will eventually be widely deployed in other areas and cities across the country. “Protecting the health of the foreign community is also protecting the health of the Vietnamese people,” Thai insisted.
In addition to speeding up the vaccination schedule, Ho Chi Minh City has also prepared accommodation and free meals for foreigners stuck in Vietnam or in difficult circumstances.
A representative of Phu Nhuan district said that during the review process to make a list of foreigners receiving vaccines, the district discovered seven cases of foreigners in difficult circumstances who needed help.
They are mostly teachers at foreign language centres or workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. They were all given gifts including essential goods and VND1.5 million ($65) in cash.
Hossam, an Egyptian man said, “I have been unemployed for six months now, I have no money and there’s nothing to eat. I’m very grateful to the government of Vietnam for taking care of me, I feel very lucky.”
According to the leader of Tam Long Chung (Common Heart) volunteer group Le Lan Anh, when she went to distribute food to poor people she met foreigners who had lost their jobs and had to live on the street.
“They often gather on Nguyen Hue pedestrian street, Bui Vien street, or at bus stations and parks in District 1”, she said.
Elsewhere, many foreigners in Hanoi recently got their first COVID-19 vaccine and some living in Danang and Phan Thiet can also quickly access support by contacting around-the-clock hotlines.
According to Nguyen Thuy Anh, vice director of Danang Department of Foreign Affairs, the city received 180 calls after just three days. Currently, more than 4,800 foreigners are living and working in Danang, mostly South Koreans. “If needing assistance in shopping for food and necessities, we will transfer the information to the district to help buy and deliver food and other aid to households”, she said.
In Phan Thiet, more than 50 foreigners living in Ham Tien ward were also provided with food when the area was locked down in mid-August due to an infection. Most of these foreigners work as tour guides, teachers, or kitchen assistants, and have been stuck in Phan Thiet for nearly two years.
Ekaterina Leusova from Russia said, “We have received a lot of support both physically and mentally during the social distancing period from the local authorities. I know this is a difficult time most, but everyone is still willing to support us.”