On Thursday night thousands of people in HCMC carrying their belongings and children took to the National Highway 1 to return to their hometown.
But the area around the Bui Thanh Thiet-National Highway 1 intersection was gridlocked about a kilometer from a checkpoint. Vehicles backed up for over 200 meters on the road to the Mekong Delta.
The exodus came as the city started to remove street barriers and checkpoints to prepare for reopening on Friday, and many Mekong Delta localities announced to relax Covid-19 restrictions.
Around 100 police officers and officials from the Binh Chanh District People’s Committee try to persuade people to turn back home and avoid gathering. At around 11 p.m. a bunch of people were redirected to Long An’s Ben Luc District neighboring HCMC to reduce congestion.
After almost 10 hours of waiting, many decided to lie down on the street and sidewalks beside their vehicles on makeshift mats.
Tran Thao, 29, his wife and three children wanted to return to their hometown Soc Trang Province, but waited at the checkpoint for hours. Thao, a manual worker, has been unable to work for the past three months and had to stay at an acquaintance’s workshop.
He said: “They don’t allow us to stay any more, and so my family has no other option except to go back to our hometown. The money has run out, and we will starve if we stay any longer.”
Phan Thi Thuy Kieu, 33, sits by the sidewalk as the temperature dropped during the night. She said she missed her child, who remains back in their hometown in Kien Giang Province.
“I have no job and no money. Now I can neither stay in the city nor return to my hometown,” she said, tears in her eyes.
At around 12:30 a.m. Binh Chanh District authorities continued to collect people’s information while thinking of ways to return them to their hometown.
Authorities hand over food and water to the waiting people.
As certain localities in the Mekong Delta begin to relax coronavirus restrictions, people have been flocking back to their hometowns by personal vehicles, leading to congestion at checkpoints.
Ho Chi Minh City announced on Thursday it would remove all Covid-19 checkpoints except some at its entrances.
Also on Thursday Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said the city and Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An provinces should continue to monitor the flow of people going in and out and not let them travel to other localities unsupervised to prevent Covid-19 spead.
Given the high demand, authorities in HCMC and nearby provinces have arranged buses from Friday morning to transport people to their hometowns. They have to be tested negative for the coronavirus within 48 hours.
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