Illustration by Trịnh Lập
by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
Since the Hà Nội government decided to ease travel restrictions and opened 39 travel check points around the city, the overall sentiment has been that of a city liberated, but the metropolis is not out of the woods yet.
"Do not get the new directions wrong," wrote a Hanoian on a community protection Facebook group recently.
"It means that we still need to maintain personal protection with the 5Ks (wear your masks, wash your hands, keep your distance, declare your health status, do not gather in groups). The fruit we got today resulted from strict social distancing of three weeks ago. Do not ruin the good overall results by neglecting the health warnings and good practices we have all maintained. Only 20 days from now, we shall know the results of our activities today."
Such comments have received widespread support by those that know acting carelessly now will lead to regret later on.
Hà Nội has completed massive COVID testing as well as a first round of vaccinations for the vast majority of the city’s adults. The second round will take another one to three months (as is standard for AstraZeneca shots) and a couple of weeks more for bodies to become fully immune.
Those in favour of social distancing are pointing out that it is still too early to lift restrictions.
After two days of no community cases, new outbreaks recently broke out in Long Biên and Hoàng Mai districts of the city.
Mid-Autumn Festival saw large groups of people queuing up to purchase traditional mooncakes at the city's famed Bảo Phương shop -- crazy behaviour in the midst of a pandemic.
From a health point of view, I would never put myself or friends and relatives at risk by venturing out to queue in a busy line for mooncakes, not to mention the three hours running I would need to do to get rid of all the extra calories.
Nevertheless, people still ventured out to buy this age-old delicacy from this much loved brand. It’s difficult to work out why this particular shop is so popular that people would ignore health warnings just to get hold of the festive treats, particularly when the shop has been selling the cakes online for weeks already.
Truth be told, I have lived within walking distance of the cake shop for years and have found no spectacular distinction of their mooncakes compared to others sold in the same area. If you can skip Bảo Phương cakes this year, you can always come back and get them next year. You won't be missing too much.
On a stretch of the street where Bảo Phương is located, a whole section was blocked for a month after an outbreak was detected and many people were taken to quarantine centres. Both ends of the streets were locked up.
Local police and security guards had to channel both motor traffic and walking customers willing to stand in line, sometimes for up to two hours, to buy one or two four-cake boxes.
Every year, the lines in front of Bảo Phương block the streets. This year, even COVID-19 could not stop the people flowing in to get their mooncakes.
Thụy Khuê Ward police even had to issue a warning saying that "if the shop cannot keep customers at safe distance, they may face unconditional closure".
On a larger scale, maintaining goods transportation is vital for food supply of socially distanced buildings and communities to prevent the virus from spreading.
We owe much gratitude to the checkpoint guards, who have been maintaining social distancing in Hà Nội. They have worked hard and risked their health by checking people's identities and papers.
But on a personal level, it's still advisable to keep all your good habits. Even if you live in a green zone, it can quickly turn red if people are reckless, and health officials still warn about mutant cases, as well as asymptomatic cases of people carrying the virus without being aware of it
It will not be for another fortnight until we know for sure if the crowd gathering around Mid-Autumn Festival resulted in new cases. Missing one full moon this year can always be made up for next year when we all are healthy or well-protected from the virus. VNS