Whenever she hears a siren in her neighborhood in District 3, Hoang Thi Thu Hong always walks out to her balcony to see if one of her neighbors has been infected and is being taken to hospital.
Last weekend when her next-door neighbors became infected, the 43-year-old was rattled and bought some Covid test kits at a pharmacy for her family.
“I have also bought flu and fever medicines, getting ready in case any member in the family is infected,” she said.
She reads newspapers and social media every day to “keep up to date on the names of medicines and preparations.”
She is hardly the only Saigonese to prepare for the worst amid the raging Covid outbreak in their city.
A pharmacist at a drugstore in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
As the nation deals with a challenging situation with Saigon as the epicenter, people are keeping abreast of news about the outbreak to stay informed. HCMC has recorded over 105,000 cases as of Wednesday morning.
Truong Thi Trieu, 47, who lives in an area currently under lockdown in District 3, reads about the latest news on the outbreak at night every day.
Besides traditional news outlets to get a general view of the rapidly evolving situation in the city, she also goes to social media to learn about the latest updates from her neighborhood.
Through an online chat group, she knows which neighbors have been infected and when they are hospitalized.
She has also joined an online community group where people share their experiences in treating Covid at home to learn from them.
The group is also where she has noted down many important phone numbers like local support hotlines and contact information of ambulance drivers and people providing free oxygen cylinders and others.
“Everyone should be prepared by staying informed about Covid-19.”
Despite already getting the first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, the fear of getting infected still haunts many people and has caused them to stock up on quick Covid test kits, thermometers, sphygmomanometers, pulse oximeters, and over-the-counter medications for fever, pain and other minor ailments.
Nguyen Mai Uyen Truc, a kindergarten teacher, said she has got the first shot but still fears for her life and that of her loved ones.
The mother of two has stocked up on all necessary medications and learned important home treatment methods for asymptomatic Covid cases.
“I have also bookmarked articles that show how to do Covid-19 tests at home, and videos where certified doctors show home breathing exercises for positive patients,” she said.
She reminds her kids and husband to take drugs to improve their resistance and drink lime juice every day to get vitamins.
Many have thought about the prospects of being separated from their family if they have to be hospitalized or quarantined, and are teaching their children to be more independent.
Before the pandemic, like many high school students, Nguyen Hoang Gia Bao, 16, was always busy with school work and only helped with chores like doing laundry or cleaning the house during weekends. He would eat whatever his mother cooked for him and dined out with friends on special occasions.
But since the fourth wave of Covid began in late April his mother has been teaching him how to make braised dishes and cook vegetable stew and others.
“Since there are no takeaway services, I have taught him to cook so he can still survive if something happens to me or my husband,” his mother explained. She has also taught him how to store food in the refrigerator.
A HCMC boy helps his family with cooking. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
Glimmer of hope
After more than two months of various levels of lockdowns, Saigonese know that vaccination is the only hope for them to end the Covid nightmare.
In the city of more than 7.2 million people aged 18 or more, 1.6 million have been vaccinated so far.
In many neighborhoods people keep a watchful eye on vaccination in their district, encourage others to register and prepare for their shots.
“My neighbor said she had mild fever after the first dose, and so we have already bought some medicines,” Nguyen Hoang Lan of District 11, who will get her shot this week, said.
Across the city 624 vaccination centers have been set up in 21 districts and Thu Duc City. Workers on the frontlines, seniors, and those with underlying diseases are among those prioritized.
In the last few days city authorities have deployed mobile vaccination teams at quarantine facilities and locked-down areas to speed up the immunization campaign.
Leaders of HCMC said the city is taking advantage of the ongoing social distancing period to vaccinate its residents against Covid-19 with nearly a million shots. It has expanded the number of vaccination stations, and expects 70 percent of its nine million population would have received at least one vaccine shot within this month.
But to achieve that goal, the city now requests the government and the Ministry of Health to supply more Covid-19 vaccine doses, it said at a meeting with the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control.
While many senior citizens have been vaccinated, younger people are still waiting eagerly for their first shot while also making preparations to cope if they get infected by the spreading virus.
In District 3 Hong cleans her balcony and sprays alcohol in the air every day, fearful infected neighbors could cause the virus to linger in the air.
She said: “I got a sore throat last week and was scared I contracted the coronavirus. So I checked my sense of smell constantly, and later felt so relieved when I tested negative.
“But I have no idea when this coronavirus will stop sparing me or my family, and so I practice breathing techniques for Covid patients in case I need it.”
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