(Source: Kizuna N0.46)
▼ Yoshikazu Suzuki, the International Support Division, ASIA PILE HOLDINGS CORPORATION
Two years have passed since I stayed away from Japan. Japanese is gradually slipping out of my memory, but I am growing increasingly anxious to enjoy the luxury of going on a sushi spree day by day.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020,Vietnam implemented immediate and strict measures in that first year, which worked effectively and enabled itself to be numbered among the best countries that succeeded in containing the pandemic almost completely. The total of COVID-19 deaths was around ten until May. But deaths as well as infections started to surge in June. New infections exceeded 4,000 in Ho Chi Minh City for many days in succession and we have seen a bout of around 300 deaths for more than a month. We have been under lockdown since mid-July and all the employees of Phan Vu Investment Corporation work from home. I guess that this will last throughout September. Factories and construction sites are permitted to operate in some regions on the condition that their workers keep themselves clothed, housed and fed on the spot, a practice called “3 on site.” Restaurant delivery and takeout services are also banned, in principle, and we can only purchase food. We are also prohibited from going out except for the purpose of going to hospital and purchasing food. We must out for a walk.
I was banned from going out for a little more than two weeks from mid-July when the current lockdown was put in place as a person who had had contact with my language school teacher who had close contact with his family infected with COVID-19. During those weeks, I asked Mr. Kobayashi and an acquaintance it was a little inconvenient and asked the superintendent of my apartment building many times how long I would remain banned from going out. But I found the food delivery convenient after a while and remained silent until the authorities declared that the prohibition on my going out was lifted. Previously even people who had close contact with those infected were supposed to be put under enforced isolation in a special-purpose facility or an expensive hotel, which made me nervous. After the lockdown measure was put in place, however, people who had close contact with infected persons are put under home isolation because of too many infections. I have so far received three PCR tests and also conducted a simple test once by myself with a kit. I was a little afraid that even foreigners, if infected with COVID-19, would be required to be put in a common group isolation facility and sleep on a simple bed or a rush mat in the same rooms with local people. Currently, infected persons having mild symptoms are also put under home isolation.
Starting from early August, we were only allowed to go out from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., but we were totally banned from going out starting from August 23. The Vietnamese did not experience such strict restrictions even during the Vietnam War. These restriction measures will last for two weeks for the moment, but it depends on the situation how long they will last. Because I cannot enjoy taking a walk, I tried exercises or stretching exercises on YouTube. But I could not get so enthusiastic about them and instead practice jumping rope for the first time in many years since I was an elementary school student. Everyone is having much trouble with their hairstyle because they cannot get a haircut at the barber’s and there is now the largest long hair boom in Vietnamese history among men and women of all ages. Regarding vaccination, 70% of the adults in Ho Chi Minh sent from Japan as of the end of August. In mid-August when an increasing number of Japanese were vaccinated, I was worried about when my vaccination would come. Then one day I received a message from a member of the staff of Phan Vu reserving it about thirty minutes after receiving the message. I have heard that some Japanese were forced to postpone their vaccination until the next day after waiting for two or three hours under the scorching sun, received vaccination twice a day by mistake or refused to be vaccinated on the spot because they noticed that the vaccines were made in China. Currently, the Consulate also handles the vaccination procedures, but I am worried if I will be able to complete my second dose of the vaccine. In Vietnam, we have to wait for eight to twelve weeks we still have so high risks of infections and incidences until then that I will be really careful.
Because I cannot go out at all, I usually enjoy eating candies watching TV at home, or enjoy eating candies doing an online game or take online foreign language lessons except when I am working. Through these online foreign language lessons, I learn English from teachers living around the world. I prefer teachers in Latin America, Eastern Europe or the Philippines where lesson fees are low with many beautiful women. Before COVID-19, I was unwilling to take online lessons, but once I started taking those lessons, I found them inexpensive and convenient and thought that I should have started much earlier. But I do not like an online drinking party. I will likely remain forced to work from home for the time being. I have started will get it over.
▼ Katsuaki Kobayashi, the International Support Division, ASIA PILE HOLDINGS CORPORATION
Nearly five years have passed since I was transferred to a new position in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with my wife in scene of my local life. But thanks to the help from Phan Vu Investment Corporation’s employees, I now have little trouble with living in the country.
In this report, I will describe my current situation and life in Vietnam amidst the coronavirus pandemic. We are now in the rainy season in the city with a temperature of around 30 degrees centigrade and a humidity of about 80%, and we have thunderstorms almost every day.
In response to the spread of COVID-19 infections throughout the country, the Prime Minister’s Directive No. 16/CT-TTg was issued for Ho Chi Minh City as well and we are under a two-week curfew starting from August 23. For my apartment house, as coronavirus responses, the buildings housing dwelling units whose residents tested positive for COVID-19 were closed down. PCR tests were conducted for all residents on the buildings were disinfected and two-week home isolation measures were put in place afterward.
Meanwhile, Phan Vu introduced a teleworking program in then switched to a full work-from-home system in late July, which saw a surge in infections. I look outside through the window in my room every day, wishing I would be free to go out as soon as possible.
Before the curfew was imposed, some types of business were suspended and people were banned from eating and drinking inside restaurants (with only delivery services allowed). In addition, when I went to supermarkets to purchase food, we were required to report our health conditions before entering the stores in addition to following the restrictions on the number of people who were allowed to enter, which forced me to wait for more than forty minutes before entering.
After the imposition of the curfew, we are only allowed to purchase food and daily necessities through shopping services (servicemen and volunteers). Different shops require us to get through different procedures for those services, but the procedures are mostly as follows. If you order goods on the internet, a shopping agent who received the order prepare the goods at a brick-and-mortar shop and deliver the goods to the lobby of your apartment building with a provisionally adjusted receipt. You receive a message telling you that the goods have arrived from the lobby and go to get the goods and the receipt. Then, you pay the amount of money written on the receipt via a bank transfer or an internet payment system. These procedures are designed for you not to touch cash and to be free from faceto-face contact with the agent. The way you purchase goods is also elaborated. If people only order a single item, there will likely be shortages of shopping agents. That is why a set of are main products to avoid that confusion. Because our family secured food for two weeks before the curfew, fortunately we have no need to use shopping services for the moment. But we will use those services if the curfew is extended.
Meanwhile, we are also benefitting from the curfew. Because only vehicles that have gained special permission are allowed to run through the streets, I am now free from traffic jams and noises synonymous with Vietnam and enjoy my first quiet and comfortable environment in years since I was stationed in the country.
I would like to take this as the opportunity to express my gratitude to Phan Vu’s employees for giving me phone calls and emails asking me if I am in trouble and for providing me with useful information according to circumstances in my life amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Lastly, Vietnam is said to be a relatively safe country among Southeast Asian countries. Many Vietnamese, including Phan Vu’s employees, have Japanese-friendly sentiment and Vietnam is a very good place to live as a resident employee. I recommend that our Japanese colleagues try experiencing working overseas just for once.