Hanoi in the First Days of Nationwide Social Distancing by Ta Quynh Hoa, Hanoi, Vietnam

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Hanoi in the First Days of Nationwide Social Distancing by Ta Quynh Hoa, Hanoi, Vietnam

Quick note from Ta Quynh Hoa Lecturer of Architecture and Planning Faculty National University of Civil Engineering ( Hanoi, Vietnam) Member of TRYSPACES project  on the transformation of public spaces for the youths  I was born in the old quarter of Hanoi and have lived for nearly 50 years in this area. Hanoi is one of the busiest cities in Vietnam, with a population is nearly 10 million people with 5 million motorbikes and vibrant city life. For me, every morning when I wake up, the noisy and boisterous sounds of the city reverberate in my ears, with motorbike horns, neighbours talking, propaganda speakers . This is the everyday sound that I’m familiar with and it’s an indispensable symbol of this city.

When I woke up today it was all very quiet. I heard the murmur of the wind and could no longer hear the noises from the car horn. Today is the first day the whole city has imposed a social isolation order issued by the Prime Minister to cope with the COVID 19 pandemic. As of March 31, 2020, there were 204 people infected with Corona virus in Vietnam and thousands of people suspected of infection must be isolated in centers. But there have been no deaths yet. Vietnam responded very promptly to pandemic. Schools have closed since mid-February. As of today, my children have not been to school and stayed home for 6 weeks and are expected to continue their vacations. I am an university teacher and I have also applied online teaching methods, but sometimes I still have to go to the office. Officially, I will not have to go to school today for the next 2 weeks and will work online at home. However, I cannot be kept indoors because I have a habit of cycling as an exercise in the morning, always breathing the air, although it is not perfect but it gives me a lot of energy for a new day at work.I rode my bike around the downtown area and around the West Lake (Hồ Tây) , the largest lake in Hanoi and called “the green lung” of Hanoi city. Hanoi is always beautiful and peaceful. The trees are green because there is no more car smoke and dust. More bicycles on the street, especially around the Hồ Tây ( West Lake) and Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Sword Lake) in the central of Hanoi.Parks and flower gardens are almost devoid of people. Only a few Grab express services are still sitting and waiting for orders. The Old Quarter seems to be relaxing in a nice afternoon nap, after a long time of the chaotic sounds of noise from the buyers, sellers and bracing themselves for a living.A few elderly people in the Old Quarter  took their seats to sit in front of the house to admire the streets of the city, they did not seem to get used to this strange silence. There are still street vendors who have to find a way to make a living. Most of them are women.In fact, I was refreshed and comfortable on the last day of cycling around the West Lake because on 2/4 there will be a ban on gathering people and cycling in all public spaces of the city.Maybe I will have to exercise indoors, the kids will have to wait longer before being able to go to the playground with their friends. This 2-week isolation period will definitely give me more time to play with my children, cook them delicious food and read them stories every night. With slow living we start enjoying life with our beloved people and experiencing the change of our city during the pandemic.

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