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Overseas Vietnamese communities face hard times due to COVID-19

For the first time since her arrival in the US, Phuong Mai found Chinatown in Philadelphia deserted.


“It feels like everybody has simply disappeared,” she told Việt Nam News. “This has never happened before.”

On Friday the 13th, after US President Donald Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency, local supermarkets started witnessing a surge in panic buying, with shoppers attempting to stockpile toilet paper, canned goods and sanitiser, according to Mai.

“All the shelves were empty while long queues of people remained waiting in long queues outside to shop up on necessities,” she said.  

“Asian-Americans seem calmer as they had already stocked rice, hand sanitiser, dry noodles, egg and other goods two weeks ago when soaring infections of the novel coronavirus were reported in Europe and South Korea,” added Mai.

Surprisingly, Mai said it was rare to spot native people covering their faces these days.

Her younger sister, a university student in Ohio State, plans to return to Việt Nam this week during her school closure.

“The university asked students to leave the campus and shift to remote education so my sister thinks it is better to go back to Việt Nam,” she said.

Nguyễn Đức Tài, head of the Boston Vietnamese Student Association, told the Vietnam News Agency that since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the States, they had worked closely with the Vietnamese community and the Việt Nam Embassy to the US to update members with the latest information and create digestible infographics on Facebook for Vietnamese students to equip themselves with COVID-19 preventative measures.

According to the Institute for International Education, there were more than 24,000 overseas Vietnamese students enrolled at American schools within the Greater Boston Area, where the most prestigious colleges are located.

The disease outbreak has cast a shadow over Vietnamese businesses in Washington DC's metropolitan area and California State.

Eden Centre, a popular Vietnamese-American strip mall in Virginia State, is going through a slow period.

To demonstrate solidarity, the community has established a hotline to provide free healthcare advice for those who have symptoms of COVID-19, as well as push back fake news of Vietnamese people infected with the virus.

“Ghen Cô Vy” – a viral hand washing song – is also being popularised among the community and at several schools in Washington DC.

Parents appreciate the action, saying it might help Vietnamese-American students overcome discrimination towards Asian children sparked by the virus outbreak.

As of Monday, the US had confirmed more than 3,700 infected cases with nearly 70 deaths, mostly in Washington State. No cases of Vietnamese infections had been reported.

Several stores at the Vietnamese Sapa Market in the Czech Republic’s capital Prague were suspended from Saturday by local authorities in response to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 in European countries.

Vietnamese communities at shopping centres and markets in have also encouraged members to home-quarantine after travelling to infected areas including China, South Korea, Italy and Iran, and halted all mass gatherings.

School closures are another problem facing Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic as children have been asked to stay at home and need adults to look after them.

Nearly 300 cases of COVID-19 infections have been reported in Czech so far.

Meanwhile, 5,000 bottles of hand sanitiser valued at 19.5 million won (VNĐ400 million) had been handed out to Vietnamese students in South Korea’s epicentre Daegu and neighbouring localities by a local cosmetic brand, according to the Vietnamese Students’ Association in Korea

Trần Thiện Quang, the association's head, said they were trying to connect benefactors with students in need to help them overcome the hard time and be able to continue their studies in South Korea.

According to South Korea’s National Institute for International Education, Việt Nam is the country’s second largest sender of overseas students. The two epicentres, Daegu City and Gyeongsangbuk Province, host more than 3,500 Vietnamese students. — VNS

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