Hanoi begins 1st day of semi-lockdown

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Hanoi’s midnight announcement of a 15-day social distancing campaign caught many people by surprise.

At 5 a.m. on Saturday vendors at Tan Xuan Wholesale Market in Bac Tu Liem District started to open their shops.

Today is full moon day, and so they have more goods on offer.

One vendor said she had no idea about the social distancing campaign because it was announced at almost midnight after she went to bed last night. This morning she heard the announcement on the public address at the market, and could not hide her surprise.

The social distancing, starting at 6 a.m., is for 15 days.

Tan Xuan Market opens in early morning, July 24, 2021.

Hanoi’s Tan Xuan Market opens early on July 24, 2021. Photo by VnExpess/VT.

Not too far away, Tran Van Thai, a motorbike taxi driver waiting for customers on Pham Van Dong Street, was worried.

Knowing about the social distancing, he started working earlier than usual this morning.

He said: “I know they have banned motorbike taxis, so I will work as a delivery worker. The coming days will be tough for people like me.”

Near the Pham Van Dong – Ho Tung Mau roundabout, Ho Trong Dat, 70, another motorbike taxi driver, tried to pick up his last passengers before the lockdown began at 6 a.m.

“The semi-lockdown will affect everyone,” he said, adding however he agreed with the decision and hoped the people will strictly follow the rules.

Ho Trong Dat wait for his last patrons before the social distancing period is imposed.

Ho Trong Dat wait for his last customers before Hanoi’s social distancing began at 6 a.m. on July 24, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/VT.

At the corner of Pham Van Dong Street, Nguyen Thi Be was trying to sell her sticky rice before returning home.

She said: “The city decided to impose social distancing last night. I did not know. I will stay home tomorrow because people will hunker down; there will be no patrons.”

After 6 a.m. many streets became desolate. Some supermarkets started to receive shoppers. But there were no crowds unlike during the semi-lockdown last April.

City chairman Chu Ngoc Anh said Directive 16, comprising the country’s most stringent social distancing regulations, requires people to stay home and only go out for basic necessities such as buying food or medicines or to work at factories or businesses that are allowed to open.

People must keep a distance of at least two meters, no more than two people can gather at public places apart from workplaces, schools, and hospitals.

If anyone has potential symptoms like fever and cough, they must inform local authorities about their condition immediately.

After the city announced the semi-lockdown, at 00:30 a.m. most checkpoints in the capital were quiet.

At the one on 21B National Road, the city and Kim Bang District in neighboring Ha Nam Province, only a few vehicles were passing by.

A man jogs on Ba Trieu Street at 5:30 a.m., July 24, 2021.

A man jogs on Hanoi’s Ba Trieu Street at 5:30 a.m., July 24, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Hai.

In the first one hour on Saturday, 10 cars and motorbikes entered the city after their occupants made health declarations. Those exiting the city were not required to do so.

At 3 a.m. on Nguyen Trai Street a dozen motorbikes carrying food were headed downtown. Others were leaving the city through Giai Phong Street.

Waiting for her friends to leave Hanoi together, Bui Xuan from northern Ha Nam Province, working at a restaurant on Phung Hung Street, said her employer told her to stop working in two weeks after knowing about the semi-lockdown.

Though she had no idea if she would be quarantined in Ha Nam, she was keen to leave Hanoi because of her fear of the spreading virus.

Some people still woke up at 4 a.m. for their morning exercises though city banned them last two weeks ago. Many public spaces apart from Hoan Kiem Lake, having several checkpoints, were filled with people.

Gesticulating to people not to come close, Lam of Tran Dai Nghia Street said working out in the morning has been a habit for a decade.

“We are old and cannot sleep well, and so we always walk in Thong Nhat Park at 4 a.m. Now that the park is closed we walk outside. We know the authorities prohibit this, so we jog early and avoid talking.”

The lockdown became inevitable after the city recorded many new cases without clear sources of transmission. On Friday there were 70 infections, the highest daily tally since the latest wave began in late April.

The city has had 884 cases so far.

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