HÀ NỘI — Tạ Hiện Street is eerily quiet.
The bars that are normally bursting at the seams with backpackers desperate for a cheap beer and a good time have their shutters firmly down.
Only the odd restaurant is offering delivery services, and the occasional pharmacy open for business, which is slow.
“The street now is empty and the atmosphere is sad,” said Lê Thị Huyền Nga, who has been serving food in Hà Nội’s Old Quarter for many years.
“I mostly sell takeaway, and just a few customers eat here. The sales now depend on regulars, who will order food from home. Others don’t come to eat much, now they all stay at home.”
Tạ Hiện Street, a famous location for tourists in Hà Nội, is now empty at night. Photo taken on March 28. – VNS Photos Tùng Đoàn
Almost all stores on Tạ Hiện Street are closed.
Despite the restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nga knows it’s for the best.
“I have to obey the rules to help fight the pandemic. We all want to open shops as normal so that customers can feel comfortable while eating their food. However, we have to abide by the instructions the Government has issued to contain the pandemic at this time.”
Anh Quân runs a toy store in Hai Bà Trưng District.
Like many other businesses he too is feeling the pinch, but accepts the actions are vital as Việt Nam fights to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Đồng Xuân Market
But he feels once the disease has passed, the Government should consider the introduction of tax breaks to help small businesses damaged by the virus.
He said: “I think the solutions set by the Government are compulsory and very detailed, which shows that our Government has planned very carefully step by step to cope with the disease in each stage without any mistakes so far.”
“However, we as citizens also have to work closely with the Government to contain this disease. In fact, many people are unaware of its danger and spread fake news on social networks, so I think the authorities must get involved and impose stricter penalties for those who violate the regulations.
“I know that big enterprises are also heavily affected by the disease. However, we still hope that the Government will consider reducing taxes during this tough time to support small businesses like us.”
Hà Nội Old East Gate (Quan Chưởng Gate)
Wholesale retailer Nguyễn Kim Thoa feels the curtain could have been drawn earlier.
“I think the Government should have banned all shops selling unnecessary items and controlled crowded areas two weeks earlier,” she said.
“My shop mainly supplies clothes for retailers in other provinces. Since the disease broke out, my shop has also provided online sales platform for customers. Even though sales are affected it is not by much. If travelling between different provinces is also banned, it will be a big problem for us. But now, the situation is still under control.”
Headquarters of the State Bank of Việt Nam on Lý Thái Tổ Street.
The ripples from the outbreak spread in many directions. Festivals, events and gatherings have all had the plug pulled.
Some retailers, like Hữu Thắng who owns a clothes shop in Hà Đông, believe the recovery period could last for the whole of 2020.
He said: “My shop is being badly impacted due to the outbreak of coronavirus. People are staying at home and all festivals have been cancelled so my shop does not have customers and revenue is down by half.
“I have no solution for my shop at the moment, because my shop is near Hà Đông's biggest market and I operate a traditional business, I don’t provide online services.
“I think the Government is doing well in implementing measures to fight COVID-19 but I hope they will support us with tax breaks.”
Hàng Đậu Water Tower
Despite the lack of both customers and tourists, some businesses are using this rare moment of calm in an otherwise hectic capital to their advantage.
Schoolteacher Trần Nhung has used the quiet time to add to her photo collection. After all, it isn’t every day you find one of Hà Nội’s busiest streets so empty.
“This street used to be very crowded so I didn't have a chance to take pictures here on a normal day,” she said.
“So today, when the street is quite empty, I've decided to come here to take pictures because my house is nearby and as I am a teacher, I'm also stuck at home right now.”
Small comforts maybe, but for all those connected to Hà Nội, the time when things do get back to their hectic best cannot come soon enough. — VNS
St. Joseph’s Cathedral on Nhà Thờ Street