Bored, lonely and frustrating.
That has been Danny Flood’s experience after he was stranded by Vietnam’s social distancing response to its first Covid-19 outbreak.
When Flood, who’d reached Vietnam mid-February as part of a trip to several countries, was grounded unexpectedly, he fully expected the crisis to blow over soon.
Flood, an American author and a digital nomad, came to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) from Thailand and planned to stay for around six weeks. On March 22, he was informed that Vietnam would shut its borders and suspend all international flights on March 25 as a measure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“The first thought I had was that this was going to be a temporary measure, for a couple of weeks or maybe a month. Then I could go to Hanoi and try to travel to Laos,” Flood told VnExpress International. He guessed most foreigners shared similar thoughts then.
Flood’s guess was way off. He said he could not describe how strange the situation was when he had to stay for a month in HCMC and “there really wasn’t much to do.” His girlfriend had returned to Bangkok right before the lockdown and his friends in the city didn’t want to meet because of the social distancing, so he had no one to talk to. He felt bored and lonely, he recalled.
Vietnam had swung into energetic action as soon as it detected its first Covid-19 cases – villages and major hospitals were locked down, school reopenings after the Lunar New Year break were put off by months, public gatherings were banned, people were encouraged to work from home, bars and restaurants were closed and all flights were canceled.
By the time the first wave of community transmission was contained in late April, Vietnam had recorded around 270 Covid-19 cases and no death. It earned considerable international plaudits for its success, which contrasted sharply with most of the rest of the world, especially the U.S. and Europe.
When domestic travel resumed, Flood was able to visit other cities like Hanoi, Da Nang, Sa Pa and Nha Trang, and enjoy low hotel prices. He was able to work online because he owns his business.
American author Danny Flood in Sa Pa, Lao Cai Province, in September 2020. Photo by Danny…