Vietnamese in Australia face upheavel as coronavirus lockdown returns

Vietnamese in Australia face upheavel as coronavirus lockdown returns

A solitary man runs along a waterway after lockdown restrictions were implemented in response to an outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Melbourne, Australia, July 10 2020. Photo by Reuters.

With a renewed lockdown imposed on Melbourne to prevent a second Covid-19 outbreak, Vietnamese in the metropolis worry about their health and future.

For Nam Bui, a Melbourne resident for over 10 years, the second lockdown “resembles a dream since everything got upturned.”

Since Wednesday, Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, and capital of Victoria, will be locked down for six weeks as authorities try to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infection following a record rise in daily cases across the state.

Restaurants and cafes will only sell takeaway food, while gyms, beauty salons, and cinemas will be closed again. Nearly five million people will no longer be allowed to leave their homes unless it’s for grocery shopping, caregiving, exercise or work.

The whole state of Victoria was placed under strict lockdown in early March, seriously affecting those working in the hospitality and restaurant industry like Nam as the number of customers fell sharply, leading to a decrease in his income.

In mid-May, Nam felt happy and relieved as the Australian government relaxed lockdown measures, allowing restaurants to reopen and his job started returning to normal.

However, Victoria has been facing a second Covid-19 outbreak, prompting the government to reimpose a lockdown on metropolitan Melbourne and some parts of the state to contain the flare-up of cases.

Australia has so far reported over 9,300 infections and 106 deaths.

“Luckily, I work different shifts at more than one restaurant. My income is still fine even though I’m struggling to survive the pandemic,” Nam said.

Nhung Le Farrell, manager of a restaurant at Melbourne Airport, has not been able to return to work since April 23. Melbourne Airport was planning to resume flights on July 17 when the second lockdown order suddenly changed everything.

Victoria closed the border with neighboring New South Wales, isolating itself to curb the spread of the disease.

“I’m sad Melbourne is under lockdown again,” said Nhung, a resident since 2012. “95 percent of flights were cut, the airport was empty and restaurants closed their doors because there were no customers.”

“My income has reduced by 90 percent,” Nhung said, adding as a permanent resident, she was fortunate to receive government support for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Only permanent residents or Australian citizens are eligible for the government support package.

Nhung takes advantage of this opportunity to spend most of the time at home with her 3-year-old son. Her husband, a high school teacher, still goes to work because high school seniors must continue their learning program.

For many, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on livelihoods.

Lan Huong Tierney, owner of a wedding dress shop in Melbourne, also lives amid worry and stress.

“My shop was closed for several months, reopening just as the new lockdown was imposed,” Huong said.

“I certainly support the decision to place the city under lockdown since human life comes first. The unemployed, like me, are also supported by the government. However, I am still worried about the future as my income has been greatly reduced.”

Huong’s husband and children are now studying and working online from home. Prior to the renewed lockdown, her family restricted going out to avoid large crowds, with the Australian government yet to contain the pandemic.

“During the first lockdown, which lasted two months, people rushed to hoard necessities, but this time most only stock up for a week to limit going out,” she said.

Like Huong, Nam now hardly stores any goods as supermarkets remain open. “It is really sad that Melbourne has to reimpose the lockdown, but it was necessary to completely stamp out the coronavirus outbreak,” he maintained.

Nam blamed the recurrence of the second wave for slack anti-pandemic measures and poor public awareness.

Australia only encourages people to wear masks in public, though they scarce and very expensive, at up to $25-30 a box.”

I worried about my health amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Hopefully, thanks to strict police inspection, residents will comply with anti-pandemic measures, and the crisis would soon pass,” Nam added.

Huong also wishes the pandemic would end soon, though she accepts she will have to deal with its impacts until that time comes.