Bảo Hoa & Minh Phương
HÀ NỘI — Buses on the roads, cafes open for customers and taxis scouring the streets for business, Hà Nội is looking a lot more like its old self once again.
After months of strict social distancing regulations, sweeping changes came into play at 6am Thursday morning.
But although restrictions were drastically eased, safety is still paramount.
Customers at a coffee shop on Lý Thường Kiệt Street in Hà Nội on Thursday morning, the first day dine-in services are allowed again after being banned for more than two months. VNS Photos Bảo Hoa
Capacity on buses and at food and drink establishments must not exceed 50 per cent, and health declarations remain mandatory for customers and passengers.
Despite these guidelines, many people were delighted Hà Nội is easing into the new normal way of life.
“Today is a wonderful day,” said 63-year-old Phạm Huy Thông.
“It’s the first time I’m taking a bus after nearly 100 days staying at home and not going anywhere. Travelling by bus is fun, it feels safe, and it helps to keep the environment clean. It’s also a hobby of elderly people.
“I don’t use any other vehicles apart from buses. No motorbike, no other means of transport, only the buses, and walking.”
People wait for their buses at a bus stop on Trần Hưng Đạo Street on Thursday morning
Taxi driver Đỗ Văn Trung, 49, feels it will take more time before he can earn the same as he did before lockdowns.
Trung said: “I’ve only had one customer this morning, the fare was VNĐ100,000. People are still wary of the pandemic and mostly use their own cars.
“During the social distancing period, I stayed at home. It got boring. Today I get to go out, enjoy the fresh air and get to talk to people. I feel better.
“I wear a mask and follow the sanitation regulations. I disinfected my car and reminded my customer to wash their hands.
“I hope the pandemic will end so we can work and earn money, to make up for the social distancing time we stayed at home and were not earning.”
Taxi services are allowed to resume operations in the capital city after being suspended on July 24 to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
It wasn’t just the convenience offered that had Hanoians beaming. Many were delighted to just be able to hook up with friends and grab a coffee.
Lecturer Hoàng Dương said: “After a long time of working from home, I really wanted to experience what it’s like going outside to eat and drink. I can have coffee and chat with my friend face-to-face now which I could not do during social distancing. My friend is also a lecturer so we discuss teaching online.
“I’m really happy, it’s been quite a long time and now I can have this feeling again.
“I think the shop owners will benefit from reopening because now they can have income and their employers can come back to work. The reopening will also lift people’s spirits. Because we are at home for quite a long time, so it feels happier to be able to go outside chatting with friends.”
Many Hà Nội residents say they are happy they can hang out with friends over a coffee again. Capacity at food and drink establishments must not exceed 50 per cent
Nguyễn Lan Phương added: “I feel happy and excited, it’s been a long time since I got to enjoy Hà Nội’s autumn like this, it’s beautiful and the weather is nice. Things have gone back to normal, so I’m very happy.”
As well as the feeling of freedom, small businesses were rejoicing as they finally began to once again earn a living.
Although coffee shops and restaurants have been allowed to operate take-outs during the past few months, having customers back in person lifts their operations to a new level.
“Other staff members and I are very excited,” said Nguyễn Đức Khanh, a coffee shop manager.
“For months we had to close due to the pandemic and even when we were allowed to sell take-outs we had very few customers, and the shop wasn’t busy like before. So we are very excited today.
“We made sure there were enough staff working today, and we’ve cleaned the shop and ensured we follow the 5K rule so customers can come in.” — VNS