Expats endure social distancing woes

August 03, 2021 | 16:16
Amid social distancing, many expats have been trapped in Ho Chi Minh City, as the government’s directives are further strengthening measures to protect people’s health and ensure the prevention of the pandemic.
Expats endure social distancing woes
Expats endure social distancing woes, photo Le Toan

As concerns rose over the spread of the pandemic after the first city-wide 15-day social distancing ended on July 23, Ho Chi Minh City is following with more stringent measures under Directive No.16/CT-TTg. Accordingly, people are urged to stay at home for 15 more days, and are only allowed to go out for basic necessities such as buying food, medicine, and commute to work.

Expatriates who are living and working in Ho Chi Minh City must also follow the requirements. From the beginning of the first 15-day social distancing, many of them got stuck in the city right from the first days of the lockdown.

Some people seemed unsettled for a number of reasons such as the inability to order food or freely go to any shops. Worse so, some lost their jobs as teachers or within other professions that can currently not operate.

In a social networking group of foreigners in Ho Chi Minh City, Donald MacAndrais shared that he could not order food through an app, while his apartment did not have any kitchen, so he had to eat fast food for the past few days.

Meanwhile, Jarred Srot from South Africa did not know what to do when he wanted to go to a large supermarket in another district to buy more food and some household essentials.

However, not all foreigners face difficulties. While most living in Ho Chi Minh City had seemed to have such troubles, others found their happiness contributing to charity trips to help the people citywide, willing to aid not only people of the same nationality but also local people.

Gaveau Patrick, a member of the Song Chanh Niem Buddhism charity group, showed his gratitude and empathy while talking about what he and his group were doing. And although his business partly also suspended operations, he has spent most of his time helping the poor, disadvantaged, and unemployed.

Esther Rinaldi Healthcare freelancer in Ho Chi Minh City

Expats endure social distancing woes

I have already had no income for the past two months. I cannot start looking for a new job because the local recruitment agency is closed. I also had some trouble securing my food supply. However, I managed to get myself a rice cooker, a few kilogrammes of rice, chicken, and other ingredients, so I should be fine for a while.

I know there are some locals who also do charity projects to help foreigners in need like me. They send food directly to my house, so I do not need to go out.

Foreigners like me need support from locals and volunteers during this lockdown because not all foreigners are rich or can afford everything. I saw many foreigners also losing their jobs.

Thus, many foreigners must survive with a meagre amount of money during the lockdown for paying for a visa, rent, and food. Two months ago, I saw in someone’s Facebook post that a Russian mother and her little son were kicked out of the hostel where they were staying as they did not have money to pay for the room.

There are even foreigners who go to their embassy for support for food, a place to stay, and money to survive.

Gaveau Patrick Member of Song Chanh Niem Buddhism charity group

Expats endure social distancing woes

It must be a difficult time for everyone these days and also for the expat community, especially those who get little income. Many expats are suffering because they have lost their jobs over the last two or three months.

My wife and I have been members of a charity group. We are a small community that tries to help because we want and can do so. And so far, we are inspired by the Vietnamese people who are so supportive.

We see that many people care to help. We receive support every day from the community. Many are also supporting us financially with donations from abroad and Vietnam. Some are my friends, some we do not know. Yesterday morning our team unloaded 16 tonnes of vegetables, and last night we received six tonnes of rice.

With this, we can feed a lot of people for many days. But the organisation and preparation require an extensive amount of work from early mornings to late nights.

With Directive 16 strengthened in the city, we are asked to stay at home. Fortunately for us, we have special authorisation from the police which allows us to travel in the city. So, the members of our community can easily travel around in District 8 to help others.

One of the greatest successes of Vietnam is that the people unite and get together to support and care for each other in such critical times.

Antonio Cadabona Jr. Filipino immigrant

Expats endure social distancing woes

It’s hard for me living in the middle of social distancing in Ho Chi Minh City, because I don’t have a job and no money to pay for rent or visas. I can only afford it because I asked my sister back home for money.

Before the current outbreak, I was a cook at a Greek restaurant in District 1. But I was not prepared, and the lockdown was not expected to last this long. Though I had accumulated some savings, these got exhausted quickly as I was helping my Vietnamese friends. I didn’t realise how quickly that went.

Now, I don’t have money, so I survive through the help from my family and others every day. My former boss was the one who helped me to extend my visa, but he only paid 50 per cent. He was also so nice to give me 25kg of rice and a box of noodles.

I love Vietnam. I am very happy because even if people don’t know me, they still help me. And I thank God because there are people with goodwill out there, willing to support the community. There is a saying that you share with other people what you have, and you will receive grace from the Lord.

Even though it’s pretty hard, I accept this situation, because I am not the only one who is suffering.

By Truc Anh and Thanh Van

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