|People have banded together in solidarity to assist those stuck in quarantine areas like Hai Duong. Photo: Toan - Huong |
Nguyen Van Hung, a 48-year-old living in Cam Giang district of Hai Duong, lost his mother to the virus in February. In Vietnamese culture, funerals consist of complex rituals which can take multiple days. Preparing for a proper ceremony surrounded by hundreds of people is of utmost importance. However, the pandemic’s restrictions meant Hung was unable to organise a traditional funeral ceremony.
“It was the one last chance for my family, other relatives, and friends to express condolences with respect to my mother. But Hai Duong has been the most serious pandemic-affected area so we were not allowed to gather in a small group, let alone organise a multi-day ceremony with complex rituals,” Hung shared with VIR. “I have never seen anything like this before. The outbreak has completely turned our daily lives upside down. During the funeral we had to mourn in silence. It is not easy to grieve alone.”
The undeniable devastating impacts of the pandemic are being felt around Hai Duong, as the locality has been the most hit hard, and remains the most vulnerable spot in the country. The virus swept across 13 cities and districts in the whole province, with nearly 700 positive cases reported a fortnight ago – reaching a record high for Vietnam.
The government was quick to adopt a quarantine approach for Hai Duong and mobilise all possible resources for support. The province was placed under lockdown to stem the spread of the disease across the mainland and beyond, and provincial residents were not allowed to leave the city, while basic essentials and medical supplies kept flowing inside.
Transport lines linking the province and even small villages were kept under control, and non-essential public activities were strictly prohibited. People were advised to avoid unnecessary travel, social activities, and gatherings.
Some other cities and provinces, including Haiphong, took drastic measures to limit the transportation of goods, including agricultural products of Hai Duong to Haiphong Port to export.
The consequences of the crisis for Hai Duong’s farmers and corporates of all sizes and shapes were severe, with the drastic decline in the food demand by restaurants and hoteliers significantly isolating farmers and food processors from their major buyers.
Surging positive cases in many parts of the province and fears of additional outbreaks have been forcing everyone to face a longer-term financial crisis, and it has caused many difficulties for Hai Duong’s agricultural products, especially carrots. Hung Viet Company, which is located in the province, last month had 23 containers of agricultural products for export to Malaysia and Japan cancelled due to social distancing restrictions.
Luu Van Thanh, general director at construction and real estate firm Minh Thanh Co., Ltd. said, “Home-buying demand in Hai Duong was strong in the past few years, boosted by increasing attractiveness of the locality as Hai Duong borders Hanoi and other important economic hubs.”
But now, Thanh said, many potential buyers are facing layoffs, temporary furloughs, and economic uncertainty. “Now, all of our business activities are being hit simultaneously. I have barely been able to leave home, let alone do anything else,” he added.
In Cam Giang district alone, nearly 7,000 people have been sent to a quarantine zone. Cam Giang’s lockdown was an unprecedented measure soon emulated by surrounding cities and counties. Others were able to stay at home under self-quarantine.
After half a month of stringent province-wide lockdown measures, Hai Duong shifted to a new status and eased restrictions in some specific areas on March 3. The locality has begun an orderly resumption of work and production, while still taking bold steps to lower the rate of infection.
Now the province aims to drastically fight the coronavirus and take action to carry out socioeconomic development tasks, according to Secretary of Hai Duong Party Committee Pham Xuan Thang.
“People’s health is priceless and worth any short-term economic fallout. Now as the outbreak is gradually controlled, we are ramping up our best effort to open up the economy,” Thang said. “We are actively testing and issuing negative virus-affected certifications for drivers to participate in transporting goods. As the outbreak may return, the entire local political system will not lower its guard and will remain on alert in the fight.”
Other factories at some local industrial parks (IPs) can resume operation, but they must follow the Ministry of Health’s regulations on COVID-19 prevention.
“I’m quite concerned that loosening travel curbs may seed new infection clusters. But our province is now no longer under lockdown, and it feels like being liberated,” said Thanh from Minh Thanh Co., Ltd. “Looking on the bright side, as a father, I am now rediscovering the pleasure of spending more time with my children. There is such a sense of shared vulnerability. I’m blessed that I feel more closely connected with my family.”
Tran Thanh Son, a resident in the Ngoc Chau ward of Hai Duong city, now appreciated and better acknowledged the preventative measures.
“I wear masks all the time, except for when eating or sleeping. Local authorities are still asking us to limit outings and not to attend large gatherings and strict checks at gates are still being carried out by local security,” Son shared.
“But I’m finding a silver lining in times of chaos. I’m more resilient, socially cohesive, and better aware of health.”
In some areas such as Kinh Mon township, Kim Thanh district, and Cam Giang district, schools, IPs, and other public activities still remain closed. Many citizen blocks will implement their own quarantines and curfews for at least another 14 days.