Panic buying in Vietnam's biggest city

Panic buying in Vietnam's biggest city

Military called in to distribute food as tougher stay-home order takes effect Monday

A man living in a Ho Chi Minh City neighbourhood under lockdown receives food through a barricade in July. (Reuters Photo)
A man living in a Ho Chi Minh City neighbourhood under lockdown receives food through a barricade in July. (Reuters Photo)

Vietnam’s plan to prohibit residents of locked-down Ho Chi Minh City from leaving their homes from Monday has triggered panic buying, as authorities prepare to call in the military to distribute food in the country's largest city.

The scramble for purchases is hurting efforts to contain the spiralling coronavirus outbreak in the city of 10 million, said the official Vietnam News Agency.

The military will begin distributing food to households in the city, working with volunteers, veterans and unions, said Vo Minh Luong, deputy minister of efence.

The army will oversee the enforcement of stay-home orders that were extended through Sept 15 in Ho Chi Minh City and “assist the city to ensure its food supply” for the next 15 days, according to a post on a government website.

Local officials must detail the number of stores in their areas and calculate the needs of households, the notice said.

Authorities are increasingly concerned that months of tough anti-virus measures have yet to contain the spread of Covid, and aim to further reduce movements by Ho Chi Minh City residents. They have already been restricted from leaving home and can do so for only essential reasons, such as getting food, seeking medical treatment or going to work sites approved by the government.

Vietnam is battling its worst Covid wave with a record 10,650 new cases and 390 deaths reported on Friday. Ho Chi Minh City has seen more than 165,000 reported domestic patients since April 27, the start of latest outbreak. The city has recorded 80% of the country’s Covid-19 deaths.

The ratcheting up of enforcement will include restricting residents from shopping for food starting Monday in areas of the city deemed high-risk and very high-risk based on the number of virus cases and the possibility of infections spreading.

Residents in other areas will be allowed to shop for food once a week. The city will also increase scrutiny of companies to ensure they comply with restrictions in order to remain operating, the Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

Less than 2% of the Vietnam’s 98 million people have been fully vaccinated as of Aug 19, according to a the health ministry.

Long queues of people were seen outside markets and shelves at supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City were emptying on Saturday, witnesses and state media said.

“It’s looking chaotic,” said a person who gave her name only as Nguyen in the city’s District 2.

“Too many people are rushing out to buy food and essential stuff for their hard days ahead,” she told Reuters. “I have managed to by some food, as I don’t want to die from hunger before dying from coronavirus.”

The ruling Communist Party on Friday announced a decision to replace Nguyen Thanh Phong as chairman of the city’s People’s Committee. It did not give a reason, but analysts cited his poor handling of the outbreak.

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