Expats Look Forward to Return to Normal After Tet
"My family and I drove to Can Gio beach and met friends inside the city to enjoy Tet. I am very happy that we could do it amidst Covid," said Hannah Jefferys, a British businesswoman living in HCMC.
Vietnam just celebrated its biggest holiday after a year of prolonged Covid lockdowns. The festivity returned with big crowds seen in major cities and tourist destinations.
Health officials have warned that the surge in travel during the holidays could result in more Covid-19 infections, especially severe cases, putting pressure on the healthcare system, VNE reported.
|A Russian man and his girlfriend walk at Nguyen Hue flower street, a Lunar New Year attraction, in HCMC on January 29, 2022. Photo: VNE|
Foreigners in major Vietnamese cities were not so worried, and said they are optimistic of the quick recovery, as long as it happens with caution.
Jefferys said Vietnam was one of the most vaccinated countries in the world and people around her were "being sensible about avoiding infection risks."
As a businesswoman, she said she did not want a return of restrictions that heavily affects business.
Valentin Orange, a Frenchman living in Hanoi, and his Vietnamese wife went to Son Tay, 40 kilometers away from the capital city, to celebrate Tet with her family.
"I was delighted that we could hang out and cheer in the streets like we are back to normal," she said.
Orange said the Tet travel rush was predictable but he thought there would be less severe cases, like in Europe after Christmas holidays, as most of Vietnam's population had recieved two shots of the vaccine.
British woman Yasmin Carmen McMahon, another Hanoi expat, was happy to be living her life again and moving on.
She traveled to Da Nang and Hoi An during the holiday, where she saw people having a good time while still being careful.
|Yasmin Carmen McMahon in Hoi An during Tet. Photo: VNE|
McMahon said both her income and quality of life had been affected adversely by the pandemic. As it was not going away in the foreseeable future, she wanted to enjoy life again in a safe way.
"Taking precautions is important but this special time will never come back, so spending it with loved ones is also significant," she said.
American Granger Whitelaw in HCMC was more cautious.
He said he was comfortable "living with Covid" given Vietnam's high vaccination rate.
But after seeing high travel demand during Tet, he was concerned that there might be another wave in Vietnam. So he would limit going out for the next few weeks.
Hope for normalcy
Srimanta Jena, an Indian in Hanoi, was busy managing his restaurant during Tet and felt good watching people behaving like before the pandemic.
Jena said he hoped things would become more normal in Vietnam next month, but also wanted authorities to implement strictly the regulations on wearing masks and limiting the gathering of people in large numbers.
The expats all hope Vietnam can start opening further, particularly to facilitate international travel.
Despite being cautious, Whitelaw said he supported Vietnam resuming activities.
Tourists from other countries should be welcomed because tourism is a major source of national revenue; and foreign investors and skilled workers need to be allowed to enter Vietnam for business development, he said.
Jefferys also wished that authorities would hurry up and open more flights and services for tourism. This would facilitate family reunions after long separations and enable people like her to fly home.
Despite being cautious, Whitelaw said he supported Vietnam resuming activities for economic benefit. Tourists from other countries should be welcomed because tourism is a major source of national revenue; and foreign investors and skilled workers need to be allowed to enter Vietnam for business development, he said.
Jefferys also wished that authorities would open more flights and services for tourism. This would facilitate family reunions after long separations and enable people like her to fly home.
Longing for normality after vaccination
With vaccination and masks, foreigners living in HCMC and Hanoi were not too afraid of falling sick with Covid and want a return to normalcy, VNE reported as they interviewed several expats late last year.
Back then, at a time when large cities like Hanoi and HCMC were gradually resuming social and economic activities, foreigners were cautiously getting back to their daily routines.
Charlotte Brown, an Australian living in District 1, HCMC, said she went out walking and shopping and caught up with her friends after months of lockdowns.
She visited various places around the city without any fear of being infected since everyone around her was wearing masks.
Also, security guards at places where she showed up systematically checked people’s temperature and scanned QR codes at the entrance.
To protect herself, Brown wore a mask and sanitized her hands religiously.
"I am ready to live with the pandemic and do not want it to control my life," she said.
|Fran Araujo rides his bike to Ba Vi, Hanoi, in October, 2021. Photo: VNE|
Indian Radhakrishnan MB, of HCMC, was excited as his employees are returning to the office.
Though wary of possibly spreading the infection, he was not afraid he would fall sick thanks to the vaccination, and plans to return to the gym.
He said he feels sad that many small shops where he used to buy things before had not reopened possibly because of financial difficulties. He also misses the hustle and bustle that existed in the city before the pandemic.
In Hanoi, Fran Araujo, a Spaniard, said he was delighted to go around their building with his "hyperactive" two-year-old. He was able to again ride his bicycle around the city every morning.
He did not fear contracting Covid since he had had the vaccine and strictly follows safety measures. His one worry was that his family could be quarantined if he tests positive.
Though some people were very careful and even wear two masks, most had already started to drop their guard, queuing up at many places and gathering on the street, habits from the past, he said.
"I am just careful and responsible."
As of Feb. 9, under the Health Ministry's new Covid assessment criteria, 48 cities and provinces in Vietnam are safe zones and the remaining 15 are medium-risk areas.
The only two high-risk provinces from last week, Tra Vinh and Binh Phuoc, both in the south, have had their Covid-19 risk level drop. Tra Vinh is now a safe, or low-risk area, and Binh Phuoc medium-risk.
HCMC and Hanoi have remained safe areas since early this month.
Regions classified as having low coronavirus risks will see most of their services and businesses resume, including non-essential ones like bars, dance clubs and massage parlors.
The Health Ministry last month adjusted its risk assessment system, with greater focus on treatment capabilities and less on case count. Vaccination coverage is another factor.
On Feb. 13, the number of Covid-19 cases nationwide continued to rise to a record figure of 27,311, including nine imported cases, an increase of 831 from the previous day, the Ministry of Health reported on February 12. Of the new infections, 19,271 were found within the local community.
The capital continued to record the highest number of infections with 2,981 cases, followed by Nam Dinh with 1,842 and Hai Duong with 1,681. The national tally has now reached 2,484,481, including 192 infections of Omicron.
An additional 78 deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours to take the total number of fatalities to 38,402, accounting for 1.5% of the total caseload. Furthermore, a total of 6,270 patients were declared free from the virus, thereby taking the total number of recoveries up to 2,218,939.
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