A long weekend will be a nine-week blockade for AP Vietnam reporters


Vung Tau, Vietnam (AP) — Wake up when a speaker outside the window starts community broadcasting at 7am. Try to remember the date. Vietnam’s pandemic blockade has been a very long time for me to lose my sense of time. I’m counting weekly now.

This is the ninth time I’ve been stuck in Vung Tau, a seaside resort more than 1,500 km (900 miles) away from my home in Hanoi.

I get out of bed before breakfast, following my yoga routine. As I unfold Matt, the broadcast will provide the latest pandemic news and sound propaganda-style songs: “Citizens, let’s join forces in this fight to make COVID disappear …”


I arrived in Vung Tau over a long weekend to meet my partner in mid-July.

In peacetime, it is crowded with vacationers fleeing the city in search of fresh air, sunshine and delicious seafood.

When I started my trip, a new outbreak occurred in Vietnam, but as before, I was convinced that Vietnam could stop it soon. To date, Vietnam has won worldwide acclaim for its successful pandemic, reporting over 8,000 cases and 35 viral deaths.

The arrival of the Delta variant changed everything.

The stock spread to markets and to communities across the country through factories in industrial areas like wildfires. In Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest city with a population of 10 million, authorities have ordered the blockade of the entire city. Soon it was expanded to include the entire southern region, which is home to more than one-third of the country’s 98 million people.

Interstate public transport has been suspended and air travel, including return flights from Ho Chi Minh City, has been suspended. I was stuck in Vung Tau when the city of Vung Tau announced its first COVID-19 case.

It didn’t seem like a big deal at first.

I was convinced that the situation would be controlled soon. Just wait for the blockage for two weeks and it will return to normal. It was like a chance to relax and enjoy the time with your partner.

I took avocado seeds from a recent lunch, wrapped them in a damp paper towel and put them in a bag to see if they sprout before the seal was over.


More than half of Vietnamese people are currently blocked.

Over 10,000 new daily cases and hundreds of deaths are reported. Of Vietnam’s approximately 16,000 COVID-19 deaths, more than 99% are riding this latest wave.

The government tightened regulations further this month, telling people “wherever they are” to buy time to vaccinate more people.

Barricades and checkpoints were set up to keep people out of the street without a permit. In some communities, authorities locked the gates of each household with a padlock.

Under restrictions, people must stay at home, except for those who work for a small number of businesses classified as mandatory services. In high-risk areas, troops are mobilized to deliver food and basic necessities to each household. In low-risk areas like I am, each family is allowed to go out to buy food and medicine once a week in a small neighborhood.

This week, the government said it was speeding up its vaccination program. Over the weekend, Hanoi alone was given more than a million shots, and authorities were aiming to get 100% of eligible residents in at least one shot by the weekend.

Still, overall vaccination rates remain low, with only 4% receiving two doses.

Vung Tau extended its sixth blockade over the weekend, adding another two weeks.


The closure day is long, and the longer it lasts, the more it drags.

How lucky and privileged it is that every time you get frustrated from your balcony, you don’t have to spend the blockage in a much less comfortable situation, like millions of compatriots trapped in a small, unair-conditioned apartment in the summer. Think about it and comfort yourself. heat.

To avoid depression, I try to fill my days with activities other than work. I’m breaking Netflix with a partner I haven’t been with for so long in the last seven years. I spend more time learning my partner’s native French. I follow my workouts on YouTube to make up for the interruptions in my marathon workouts.

Before this wave, I felt like there was a pandemic somewhere. No one knew who was infected with the virus in Vietnam.

But the bad news began to flood. A friend of mine got it with the other four in the family. Three of them were transferred to three different hospitals, but two were at home because of mild symptoms. In my Facebook feed, some people have changed their profile to black to mourn their lost loved ones. The pandemic has become a reality for me.


I have a video chat with my parents in their 70s almost every day.

I am worried that the virus may have invaded their Hanoi street. Their neighbor was the latest incident, and their alleys were blocked with a “pandemic area” sign. I sighed a little relief when they finally got their first vaccination two weeks ago.

There is also a family group chat with 3 siblings and 5 nieces and nephews. We are very close and accustomed to meeting each other well. We haven’t been able to meet since the blockade.

In the marathon, there is a finish line. This is a goal that will help me keep moving forward. It’s hard to imagine when the blockage will end if it’s repeated many times. Without it, who knows what the death toll is.

For now, I’m trying to seek comfort with something simpler.

My avocado seeds germinated faster and taller than others I had germinated in the past.

I have a lot of plants in Hanoi. Unfortunately, many must have died now.

I didn’t mean to leave for such a long time.