Saigonese are yearning for normalcy after the semi-lockdown to contain Covid-19 ends so that they can again meet friends and family and look for jobs.
Waiting for staff at a coffee shop to make ca phe sua da (Iced coffee with condensed milk) for a customer, delivery worker Nguyen Anh Khoa sanitized his hands three times while wearing two layers of masks.
“The Covid-19 threat is lingering everywhere, and I am vigilant but tired of it,” he said.
Two masked baristas were silently making beverages to deliver to online customers amid the sounds of an espresso machine. On the counter was a note reminding them to wash their hands every 30 minutes.
“All I want now is no worries about the coronavirus, so I can have more passengers, make more money and return to things I used to do in the pre-pandemic era,” Khoa said, adding he wished to have the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
The 43-year-old is among millions of people in the southern metro who are looking forward to post-pandemic life and a return of serenity.
People walk to a medical site in HCMC’s Binh Thanh District for coronavirus tests, May 27, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
As of Sunday the city has had 1,527 Covid cases in the latest wave, behind only Bac Giang with 5,330.
It has detected several worrisome coronavirus clusters that have sparked infections in all 21 districts and Thu Duc City.
On June 15 the city government decided to extend mandatory social distancing by another two weeks.
The new outbreak, which began at the end of April, has taken a toll on the mental wellbeing of people of all ages.
Many are depressed without personal contact with friends and family and by being cooped up for long due to lockdowns and social distancing. Normal pre-pandemic activities such as going to a bar, attending a concert or even having a family gathering now seem far-fetched.
Due to fears of infection and the current semi-lockdown, some people cannot leave HCMC to meet their families in rural areas or even hang out with friends.
Nguyen Thi Xuan, who sells sticky rice on Ly Thai To Street, said she had planned to visit her family in Khanh Hoa Province in May, but did not since the province required those coming from Saigon to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“I want this outbreak to be over so I can be in my hometown, see my friends and eat my favorite foods,” she said.
She is tired of traveling from home to work without any social interaction.
“Who thought a family reunion would become such a luxury?”
Some people, with their livelihoods shattered by the new Covid wave, eagerly await the end of the pandemic so that they can look for jobs.
According to the HCMC Department of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs, over 42,500 people lost their jobs in the first five months of 2021 as businesses closed down because of the pandemic.
Nguyen Van Cong, one of the unfortunate ones, has hunkered down and is waiting to applyfor a job when the outbreak is contained.
He said: “I am scared of the virus because I live with my wife, children and mother. No one wants to hire new people now, so I will wait for this ordeal to be over.”
A Grab taxi driver tested positive for the virus on Wednesday rattling him and making him give up the idea of temporarily working as a motorbike taxi driver.
A man walks inside the Hoang Van Thu park in HCMC on July 8, 2020. The park had to wrap up several equipment to prevent contact. Photo by VnExpress/Ha An.
Saigon, get well soon
Many Saigonese are generally aware that they must strictly follow Covid prevention measures to return to normalcy as soon as possible.
Thuy Van, a barista at a cafe on Ba Thang Hai Street, busy making coffee on Friday morning, said she is not scared by the pandemic as long as she has masks and hand sanitizers.
“I wear masks and maintain a distance from others. I also tell all my friends to do the same so that this nightmare will be over and the social distancing campaign will end.”
Online, members exhort each other to stay at home and avoid coming into close contact with other people during the four-week semi-lockdown, and express the hope their city will regain its vibrancy soon.
A university student commented on a Facebook group of people living in Saigon: “One step back, two steps forward. Please stay at home and follow prevention measures. The more we follow the rules, the sooner we can return to normal.”
Many people also lend a helping hand to those in need. Landlords are reducing rents, samaritans are feeding the homeless, people are supporting lottery sellers and vendors.
There have been many such stories of kindness on social media in the last few weeks.
Embracing and getting used to working from home and staying indoors, many are still hoping to get their social life back and have started to envision the first thing they would do after the lockdown ends.
Tran Thai Hoang of District 5 said: “What I miss most is eating out with my family every Friday night. We would probably dine at one of our family’s go-to Chinese restaurants when the city lifts the social distancing mandate.”
Khoa, a delivery man living in Go Vap District, said the first thing he would do is meet up with his friends for draught beer and have his favorite morning ca phe sua da from a street vendor.
“Having my favorite drinks and seeing my friends… I realized that I used to take those things for granted. Now I miss it so much. Saigon, please get well soon.”