On Friday, “rumors” of a total lockdown drove Ho Chi Minh City residents to unnecessary panic-buying. Thousands of people crowded supermarkets, with mandated safe social distance barely observed. Everyone tried to grab all the meat and vegetables they could get to not starve for the next two weeks.
By Saturday morning, the city government officially announced that every ward in the city will be assigned into different zones. People in green and yellow zones would be allowed to go out to supermarkets and grocery stores once a week. In the orange and red zones - considered high-risk areas - military forces and volunteers would help with food shopping, the payment of which will be made by the residents.
It was a relief for the city’s 12 million residents, especially for those in green and yellow zones. Authorities assured there’s sufficient food supply for everyone.
But late afternoon on Sunday, HCMC abruptly changed mobility rules. By evening, an official text message was sent to residents, notifying them to “not collect goods.” No one, regardless of zones, will be allowed to go out, and that purchasing of essential goods will be “supported by special working groups in communes, wards and townships.”
The new restrictions were decided after an increasing number of community infections were recorded in recent days.
Loc Nguyen, who lives in Tan Thuan Dong Ward in District 7, said the ever-changing rules make it “very confusing and hard to follow.” While he didn’t resort into panic-buying over the weekend since he was able to get food supplies from nearby grocery stores before it got all chaotic, Loc said proper communication should be done to prevent confusion among residents.
“The fact that most of the announcements are sent through social media makes it seem like if you’re not on Facebook or Zalo, then you’d be completely lost. However I understand that the situation right now is really difficult and that the government is trying their best,” Loc said.
Go Vap resident An shared the same sentiment. “So the government is updating their rules constantly, which is annoying to me honestly. And the rules are not clear enough. Fake (or trustworthy but unofficial) news is all over the internet, which also contributes to the confusion right now.”
For Yui, instead of focusing on the “confusing” announcements, he proceeded to order a one-month supply of cereal and coffee, just “to be safe.”
“One thing I learn from gov reactions is that don't listen to what they say, or the media say, look at what they do. Know your own needs and secure those as soon as you can in the safest way possible,” Yui said. He’s based in Binh Thanh District.
Khanh Trinh, who’s in Tan Thuan Tay Ward in District 7, is more relieved than confused. When she confirmed the new rules on Sunday night through local media, she thought it was high time the government imposed a 24-hour curfew. “They shouldn’t have let people go out from the start, so I was kind of relieved when they changed it again. My family has been home for 10 days, we didn’t rush to the supermarkets as it seemed pretty dangerous. So I agree with their latest call last night.”
Living in District 8, Hanh also supports the government’s changing rules, saying that “last-minute changes are understandable, given the complicated situation in the city.” But while she’s fortunate to be in a position where she can stock up on food, she also knows that many people can’t. Some don’t have enough financial resources to buy weeks-long supply, while others live far from major supermarkets.
“I think this serves as a lesson. The government should provide clear, consistent and unified communication plans across official media sources so that people do not have to panic or be confused.”
Soldiers help deliver food
About 30,000 officers under the High Command of Ho Chi Minh City are currently being deployed across the city’s 312 wards and communes in 22 districts (plus Thu Duc City) to help distribute food and care packages, get grocery order lists from residents and ensure no one breaks social distancing rules.
"This is a strategic battle. The army, police, and local authorities are determined to work together to stamp out the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Nam, commander of the HCMC High Command told Tuoi Tre News.
Security personnel are also manning checkpoints to evaluate entry and exit permits, only allowing select groups to move across district boundaries. They will also be doing regular patrols, especially in narrow and hidden areas.
All military personnel deployed in Ho Chi Minh City have received at least one vaccine shot, and have undergone testing. They will be tested once every three days once on duty.
Tighter rules started this morning, and are expected to last until September 6, according to an official announcement.
Authorities estimate that the city would need to provide 11,000 tons of goods to residents daily. Residents will be provided with contact information of corresponding units assisting their area. Those living in apartments are also advised to coordinate with their landlords and property managers. Residents of Eco Green Saigon Apartment in District 7 reported receiving instructions on how to order food essentials. “Combo” of different vegetables and meat in different prices were available for purchase, but delivery may take up to three days.
Aside from soldiers, the city also deployed additional medical professionals and volunteers to help an already overwhelmed medical system. Thousands of health workers from different provinces were mobilized to assist the situation in HCMC, as well as in Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An provinces, which have also now become COVID-19 hotspots.
Professors and students from medical and pharmaceutical schools in Hanoi also arrived in the southern metropolis on Sunday to help assist in hospitals.
Vietnam’s worsening fourth outbreak has now recorded 343,973 COVID-19 cases, nearly 176,000 of which were detected in HCMC.