Checkpoints shape life in Hanoi during lockdown

No cars allowed: A woman walking past a makeshift barricade for vehicles in a Hanoi neighbourhood. — AFP

AS Covid-19 cases soar in Vietnam, hundreds of checkpoints have sprung up to enforce a strict lockdown in the capital Hanoi, where even grocery trips are restricted.

In contrast to many of its South-East Asian neighbours, who are also suffering through their worst-ever wave of the pandemic, Vietnam is rigorously enforcing stay-at-home rules in several major cities.

For many in the capital, restrictions on movement are an irritating, but necessary, measure.

Like every Hanoi resident, kindergarten teacher Do Thi Lan Anh had to show a shopping ticket before stocking up on food at her local wet market on Thursday.

With shopping trips limited, she made sure she bought plenty of tofu, beef and vegetables.

“Shopping tickets help maintain social distancing,” Lan Anh said. “The disadvantage is that I cannot go to the market anytime I want.”

While the majority of virus cases are in Ho Chi Minh City, the government is taking steps to prevent a similar outbreak in Hanoi, which reported only 46 of about 7,500 cases nationwide on Thursday.

Hanoi, a city of eight million people, was ordered into lockdown for two weeks last Saturday.

For some older Hanoi residents, the controls have rekindled difficult memories of post-war years.

Before the communist nation opened itself up to the world in 1986, Hanoi residents used a coupon system to get access to food.

“The market coupon is the same as what we had decades ago, during the North’s subsidised economic period,” Vo Thi Chien, 50, said.

“We cannot go freely to buy what we want. What else can we do?”

In April last year, a similar lockdown was imposed on the city, but authorities were not as strict.

“I have never experienced this level of checking in my life,” said Tran Van Toan, 75, from Hanoi.

The situation reminded him of security checkpoints before 1954.

“It’s inconvenient but I support the authorities as it will help prevent infections”, Toan added.

Vietnam has been slow to procure vaccines, with just over 5.5 million doses administered among its 100 million people as cases soar.

More than a third of the population has been forced to stay home as the country battles an outbreak that began in April in two northern provinces and has since spread south. — AFP

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