Behind barricades, Vietnam battles ‘enemy’ virus

An alley is blocked with trash can and a Vietnamese flags in Vung Tau, Vietnam.
Trash cans and a Vietnamese flag form a makeshift barrier to an alley in Vung Tau, Vietnam in an attempt to isolate neighborhoods to block the spread of the coronavirus.
(Hau Dinh / Associated Press)

The roadblocks and barricades make the streets of this southern Vietnamese city look like they did during the war that ended almost 50 years ago. But this time, the battle is being fought against the rampaging coronavirus.

In Vung Tau, just outside Ho Chi Minh city, streets are sealed and checkpoints are set up to control the movement of people. Barbed wire, door panels, steel sheets, chairs and tables are among materials being used to fence up alleys and isolate neighborhoods.

A coastal city with half-a-million people, Vung Tau was untouched by the coronavirus for most of the pandemic. Life was lived much as normal until the first case was registered in late July and the Delta variant started to spread in the southern region.


The entrance to a Vietnamese beach is barricaded with a sign that says, "Fight COVID-19 together, no beach activities."
The entrance to a beach in Vung Tau, Vietnam, is barricaded with sign that reads, “Fight COVID-19 together, no beach activities.”
(Hau Dinh / Associated Press)

A lockdown was ordered quickly. The city’s white sand beaches, which had been packed with tourists, were emptied and closed. Residents are asked to stay home and can only go out on the streets for necessities once a week.

“Fighting this pandemic is like fighting the enemy,” is the slogan repeated by Vietnamese authorities whenever they address the public about the pandemic these days, calling on people to join the fight by “staying put wherever you are.”

An alley is barricaded with door panels in Vung Tau, Vietnam.
(Hau Dinh / Associated Press)

The situation is the same for half of Vietnam’s population, who are also under the lockdown order to battle the country’s worst outbreak yet.

The government hopes to slow the infection rate, reduce the pressure on the healthcare system and allow more time to vaccinate more people.

A man slips through a barricade to enter an alley in Vung Tau, Vietnam.
A man slips through a barricade to enter an alley in Vung Tau. The roadblocks and barricades make the city look like it did during the war that ended almost 50 years ago.
(Hau Dinh / Associated Press)

Just 6.9% of Vietnam’s population is fully vaccinated.

In only over four months, the virus has infected nearly 700,000 people and killed more than 17,000, according to the Health Ministry. Almost all of the fatalities have been from this latest wave.