Food Shortage

And while the Communist Party of Vietnam, specifically those in charge of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), also boasts about its adequate food supply and noteworthy effort to feed those in and around containment zones, many people, including us, are calling out their bullshit. From July 8th, the day when the HCMC Party Committee announced that directive 16 would go into effect at 0000 on July 9th and ensured that it had adequate food supplies, the city has suffered from food shortages. We have suffered from food shortages.

Food shopping has been hit or miss. Yesterday, I was luckily able to buy a carton of eggs since we hadn’t seen them stocked for more than 10 days. Otherwise, vegetables and fruits weren’t available except for scraps and there wasn’t any chicken. All of which we hadn’t seen for at least seven days. As for beef and fish, they’ve totally disappeared. We haven’t been able to buy those since Sunday, July 4th. You literally have to go food shopping two times a day hoping that something had been delivered in the meantime. But it’s not as simple as just going to a food store because, if the food store is still open as some have been closing (and not re-opening) for reasons unknown, there are typically queues five to ten people long to get in — not to mention the city-wide 6PM curfew. Food stores are required to restrict the number of shoppers based on size. Many allow only two shoppers at once.

There’s been no predictability with food deliveries, either. The HCMC Party Committee setup hundreds of checkpoints throughout the city causing long queues. Drivers are either being fined or turned away without the proper stamped documents for entry/exit, which aren’t foolproof. On July 30th, Việt Nam News reported that the government had not clearly defined the meaning of essential goods as essential items, such as diapers, women’s sanitary pads and lightbulbs, were being deemed not essential by those manning the checkpoints. Although I think that issue has been resolved by now, it affected us. Vinmart hadn’t stocked your diaper size for weeks and we had bought the last two bags at another store about two weeks ago.

That’s not the half of it, unfortunately. To make an already bad situation worse, the HCMC Party Committee has issued shopping vouchers to households that allow only one person from each household to go food shopping at a specified time on a specified date. Coupled with the unpredictability of food deliveries, as people tend to hoard food and essential items in times of need, that has further exacerbated the food shortage. Not only are police and food stores turning people around, building security is also forcing people to go back home if their voucher is for another date and time.

Also, we have it bad but there are people who have it much worse. If a person who is suspected of having COVID-19 lives in your building, the government establishes a perimeter to isolate those within it; and if a person who is suspected of having COVID-19 lives on your floor, not only is the building locked down, everyone on your floor is stuck at home, indefinitely. Further, elevator access is stopped to ensure compliance. Nonetheless, many of those households are struggling because they don’t have an adequate food supply. Although the government committed to help feeding those people as it had escalated their lockdown protocols, it’s done a piss poor job. I know a person who has been locked in an alley along with many others for a week. Except for a single lunch and a handful of fruit, the police told him food delivery is your responsibility. Who cares about publicly made commitments?

Well, that might work had consumer food delivery services operated normally. Chopp, a consumer food delivery service, has one- to two-week wait times, and other consumer food delivery services, such as Grab or Gojek, are impossible to book. Not only has the government prevented drivers from operating between districts, of the ones that are still working, most have migrated to the wealthier, more populous ones. By “most”, don’t go thinking there are many drivers available because it’s quite challenging to get paired with them, regardless. Your mother had ordered baby food that we’ve been waiting on for a week because either the store can’t find a courier or the courier gets stuck at one of those checkpoints. Baby food isn’t an essential item, apparently. So, there are many middle and upper-middle class people that are really struggling because of the stupid ass government.

Moving was a great idea. We both really like the apartment better plus, given the current situation, having a refrigerator twice as big as before has worked out in our favor. Your mother and I don’t hoard food, but we’ve definitely been buying much more than normal to prepare for even worsening conditions. We have about 30 kgs of rice, a 10-day supply of chicken and three cartons of eggs left. That’s more food than I’ve ever had at any one time in my life. Since the situation on-the-ground has shown no signs of improvement, we’re going to continue to do the best that we can. God willing.

BTW, I’m also re-evaluating my position on getting a COVID-19 vaccine based on the U.S. CDC’s report on the delta variant (released this past Friday) because if it’s really more transmissible than the common cold then it’s just a matter of time before we all get it. That’s game changer. I believe my body is strong enough to be part of the majority, but I’m not certain. I want to be with you and your mother for as long as possible. Maybe it’s a good hedge. Maybe that makes it necessary after all.

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