A Mid-Autumn Festival in a pandemic in Saigon

It is later in September and closer to the Mid-Autumn festival here in Vietnam and we are waiting. Still waiting, but less ardently, I would say. There has been some resignation in my alley, and we are out and about in the ‘green zone’ that lets us move, I think, or at least, doesn’t seem to stop us from moving, if we chose to. I mean, it seems very up in the air and hard to understand. Very different from the time we all were very uncertain as the situation went from not-getting-better to still-not-getting-better and we were asked to stay home except sometimes for emergencies, then made to have tickets to go out once a week, then told that the army would be bringing us food so please just shelter in place.

Photo: Jet Dela Cruz

That was August sometime. The days are blurry now. I remember these stories of people doing things like:

  • faking covid-negative certificates so people could pass checkpoints (‘it was a business opportunity’, said the owner of a print shop.... as reported in Tuoi Tre News: ‘Hieu later admitted that he advertised his service on Facebook, offering fake paperwork that helped people get through scrutiny at COVID-19 checkpoints during the ongoing social distancing bout in Ho Chi Minh City. Under the current social distancing rules, only individuals on essential duties, such as frontline workers and hospital volunteers, are allowed to travel in the city.  After receiving orders, he used printers and blanks sourced from the Internet to forge travel passes. In the past four months, he has sold 24 pieces of forged paperwork, including ID cards for hospital volunteers, citizen IDs, driver’s licenses, and passports at the price of VND300,000 (US$13) each to a 38-year-old man…’),
  • posing as a doctor and telling patients over a group app that they could go home,
  • swimming from Cambodia to Vietnam to try to get out of quarantine, and
  • fighting off officials coming to take a woman off to a quarantine site only to have to break into her house and deal with her locking herself into her bathroom only to come out fighting, later, naked.

Those are the ones that stand out in my memory. I know there were other stories, that, looking for news of any kind, managed to catch my eye because we are fascinated by the weird and claps-hand-over-mouth unbelievable. I thought we would have been back to ‘normal’ by now, like many others, who had been waiting, waiting patiently, then anxiously, then resignedly. Is this how it has been, elsewhere, all this time, around the world, in lockdowns? It is our first real lockdown, here in Vietnam, and I guess I just kind of am like, ‘Oh.’

But, I feel we are turning the corner. I see this nice graph saying ‘falling’ and people are chatting more on the streets. I can hear more activity. Signs of life could be returning now, more and more we are hearing that the city is under pressure to open up again. Friends and acquaintances have not left their rooms for weeks. Ordering food, doing their duty, being good citizens. But not letting people go outside to walk and gain some fresh air and perspective, to look at trees, see others also moving, is, I feel, unhealthy in a very different way. It rains a lot, we’re in that season, and I read the news, and wait.


These are screenshots from the Reuters page about covid data, updated live, about Vietnam. More recently I’ve been going to this page, too.

In a story called ‘Ho Chi Minh City Under Pressure to Reopen Economy,’ journalists report:

HCM City has 515,988 people who still need to receive the first vaccine dose, according to Nguyễn Hữu Hưng, deputy director of the city Department of Health. More than 1.8 million second doses are needed by the end of September when the current vaccination round ends. HCM City has imposed various levels of social distancing restrictions since late May.

On August 23, the city was placed under the toughest measures, ordering people to “stay where they are” except for emergencies. HCM City has recorded more than 326,000 cases since late April when the fourth wave began. — VietnamNews.VN

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/1034615/hcm-city-under-pressure-to-reopen-economy-city-chief.html

Feature photo: Vietnam News Express

When the city opens again, I’ll get back to making #spacethezine.







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