Village elder Phạm Văn Tôm of Nước Lang Village (centre) in Quảng Ngãi Province talks with local people about the COVID-19 pandemic. — Photo tienphong.vn
QUẢNG NGÃI — H’re ethnic people in mountainous districts of the central Quảng Ngãi Province have an improved awareness of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the efforts of local officials.
In March when the pandemic first began to spread widely, local people reportedly placed dolls at village gates, sprinkled dog blood on the ground or ate eggs mixed with honey to ward off the virus.
Đinh Thị Đú, a woman living at Sơn Bầu Village, Sơn Nham Commune, Sơn Hà District, told Tiền Phong (Vanguard) online newspaper that now, they wear masks and avoid crowds.
At first, when she saw a stranger entering her house (a Tiền Phong reporter), Đú said: "Stranger, stay away, you're spreading COVID!"
“Strangers must stand far away. Standing near spreads the disease,” she said.
“The authorities have told me strangers have to report to the local authorities to fill in a medical declaration form,” she said.
Not only Đú, but all the villagers are also now wary of strangers.
In March, local people donated money to hold a ceremony to ward off COVID-19, but the authorities said it caused environmental pollution, so it was halted, said Đinh Thị Loan, a villager.
“Now, stopping COVID-19 means wearing a medical mask, avoiding meeting strangers and sick people must go to the commune health station for check-ups,” said Loan.
In the customs of the H’re people in Quảng Ngãi, there are many rituals throughout the year.
When the first outbreak of COVID-19 appeared in March, villagers reportedly held rituals to ward off the pandemic.
Four of the six villages in Sơn Nham Commune were reported to have placed dolls carrying weapons and dog blood at the village gates to fight the pandemic.
Normally, local people perform rituals for sick people in the village to defeat ghosts.
Phạm Văn Tuấn, Secretary of the Cận Sơn Village Party committee said in March, villagers held many rituals.
Local authorities called on people to stop such ceremonies because the offerings were costly and the events crowded, violating anti-pandemic regulations.
To persuade local people, the first thing authorities had to do was to persuade the village elder and the priest, two people with important roles in the community.
The village elder, Phạm Văn Tôm at Nước Lang Village, Ba Dinh Commune, Ba Tơ District recounted that at the end of March, local villagers, after hearing a rumour that eating raw eggs with honey at midnight would kill coronavirus, rushed to buy eggs.
Nearly 90 per cent of the population of Ba Dinh Commune are H’re ethnic minority people living with many customs, with rituals that gather many people.
However, since the return of community transmission of the virus in July, Quảng Ngãi authorities stipulated limiting crowds to stop the virus spreading and local people have complied.
Phạm Văn Ôn, Chairman of Ba Dinh Commune, said the village elders were also highly aware of pandemic prevention so they regularly reminded people.
“From the end of July, there has been absolutely no gathering of people in the commune,” he said.
“The local youth force often use a loudspeaker to call people to change their behaviour to tackle the pandemic.” — VNS