Covid-19 and me part VII

The Vietnam government has just extended the social distancing order for Khanh Hoa province for another week, and maybe more.

Which means that school’s still out , as it has been since February 2.

Now, the earliest that schools will return here in Nha Trang is April 22, and likely later.

My Vietnamese friend ‘Henry’ and I are a little puzzled as to why Khanh Hoa has been put in the ‘high risk’ basket. There’ve been no new cases here since the province was declared virus-free after our one case was cured on February 26.

There are noises from the peanut gallery about school re-opening here in May, but these are coming from chrystal-ball gazing. For now, no-one knows.

Flights leaving Vietnam are few and far between, and a recently-announced NZ Govt.-organised flight from HaNoi to NZ would be nigh impossible to get to. Travel restrictions.

My Visa here is paid until June 1, so for now at least, I’m staying put, and working online.

Maybe baby

It’s possible that my school will re-open April 20th, according to the Head Teacher.

However, we’ve heard this before, so there won’t be any breath-holding happening.

Meantime, I now have a third job, apart from teaching online and the above , er, Clayton’s job.

That is transcribing audio files. I’m about to start today, after passing the entry tests two weeks ago, and finally getting some files assigned.

It’s USD$38 / hour , but that’s per hour of audio, so it may turn out to be an effective hourly rate of … pittance.

It’s a ( backup ) job, Jim…

Business as usual

At the risk of sounding complacent, it is pretty much business as usual here in Nha Trang.

Most mornings, I go to the seaside for a morning walk, along with an estimated 500 – 1000 like-minded people. All at once, at any one time between around 5.30 and 7.00 a.m.

The northern Nha Trang seaside is a stretch of about 5km of beachfront, with a 3 or 4 -metre wide paved walking path alongside. And, ideal swimming along most of its length.

So it’s not just me running amok amid chaos, it’s a good slice of Nha Trang. So, about that, and as of the time of writing;

  • Khanh Hoa’s one and only case of the virus recovered, and the province was declared virus-free on February 26.
  • Total number of cases per million population throughout Vietnam – 2.
  • Total cases / million of population in New Zealand – 107.

Vietnam’s testing and isolation seems to have started much earlier, which might account for some of the difference. Either way, it is one of the safer places in the world to be right now.

In other news, and answering a family member’s questions;

  • Getting warmer?

    Yes, it’s … toasty. Usually above 25 deg C for morning walks. Toughest is early afternoons, before the wind gets up, a time many Vietnamese will take refuge in a nap

  • Online students

    Yes, still teaching Japanese adults mainly, although the number of bookings has slowed. I’m not sure whether that’s down to their purse-strings tightening, or my popularity fading a little after an initial honeymoon period.

  • Supermarkets

    .. are open as usual. The larger ones will do customers the service of pointing a device at their foreheads on entering. Taking temperature as a shortcut to virus status.

  • Plane ticket refunds

    I have a one-year credit for the Air New Zealand ticket from Sydney to Auckland. The ticket from Da Nang to Sydney I made the mistake of booking via an agency rather than directly with the airline. That’s proving difficult to recoup. I can re-book for a later date, but that’s not ideal because I don’t yet know when the ( current non-existent ) school term will end.

  • Apartments

    I’m considering a ‘kind’ ( their visitor numbers have obviously plummeted ) offer to return to Moonstone apartments for a rate reduced to just below what I’m now paying at Vinh Quang in the North. Vinh Quang is ideally placed for closeness to the beach, but the dog- and traffic ( horns ) noise is really starting to bug me. I almost started to lose my rag yesterday at a local who was spectacularly … unhelpful. So, maybe time to deal with the stress before it gets too much worse. Moonstone has a better kitchen, it has a couch, and it has less noise from bike horns. It also has a worse dog problem, and is 15 minutes or so further from the beach. Still, it’s something I’m thinking on, I’d love to be free of the bike-horn noise which is like water torture – it’s constant – drip, drip, drip….

Backpedal

I’m doing an about-turn again – I’m staying put.

The risk of being stranded at a transit airport ( e.g. KUL, Malaysia ) isn’t one I want to take.

Also, if I had returned to NZ, I would have arrived after lockdown, and thus been forced to do 14 days self-isolation at the airport of arrival – Auckland.

This may come as a surprise, but Vietnam is safer than NZ when it comes to catching the lurgi – https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/.

New Zealand : total cases – 205. Total cases per million of population – 43
Vietnam : total cases – 134. Total cases per million of population : ONE

I’m now busy scrambling about doing what I can to secure airline credits and refunds for the booked flights.

If then but not however

Travelling through the current state of disaster on April 5 may just be too risky.

That’s the main message I can gather from an advisor at the NZ High Commission in Malaysia, no less. His continued rapid email responses have been invaluable to me over the last few days. My frustration leaking through this post’s title is in now way a criticism of the advisor.

His emailed responses to my bolded questions are below.

Hi Duncan,
Thank you for your email.
My reply to your questions as below.
1) what is the worst that can happen in Malaysia? If that happens, what if any support is available?

As previously advised, the current “Movement Control Order” implemented by the Malaysian Government, which is effective from 18 March to 31 March, would not allow foreigners to enter Malaysia.
While you are allowed to transit, you can only do so if you arrive at and departing from the same airport and terminal. At this stage, we are not sure what will happen after 31 March but there are some indication that the Malaysian government might extend the “Movement Control Order” for another week or two, depending on the situation. If one of your flights (Kuala Lumpur to Sydney OR Sydney to NZ) has been cancelled and the Malaysian government extends the Movement Control Order beyond 31 March, our advise is for you not to travel to Malaysia as you will not be allowed entry and you might be stuck at the airport with very limited facilities. The consular assistance that can be provided by us at the New Zealand High Commission Kuala Lumpur can be very limited given the restrictions.

2) what is your advice regarding the issue above with transit in Australia? Should I be applying NOW for a transit Visa? ( I have tried contacting airlines, but their advised response times is more than 2 weeks )

We are not able to advise on matters for the Australian authorities. We would advise you to continue to check with the airline. You might also want to try to contact the Australian Embassy in Viet Nam to see if you are able to obtain any information.

3) Do you have any general advice? ( e.g. ‘do NOT board the plane to Malaysia ‘ )? I have taken the advice re registering with safe travel. I am monitoring the airlines sites for travel cancellations.

​As advised above, if any of your flights is cancelled and if Malaysia is extending the “Movement Control Order” then my advice is for you not to travel to Malaysia as you will be stuck at the airport with limited facilities. You may want to stay where you are and follow the advice in my previous email.

Alternatively, you might want to look at available flight options now and travel as soon as possible. It might be easier to work through a (licensed) travel agent as they will be able to advise you on the available flights and the restrictions of those countries that you have to transit through.

Whatever your decision or plan is, make sure that you prepare for the worst case scenario as the situation is too fluid at the moment and things can change very quickly. Please keep your family and friends informed regarding the plans that you have. Update your details on SafeTravel especially when you have travelled from one place to another so that we are able to contact you in the event of an emergency.

You can visit https://covid19.govt.nz/​ for official information and advice from NZ Government regarding COVID-19.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Best regards,

Zhong Yan Tan
Consular Adviser

COVID-19 and … me

The Covid-19 virus continues to throw spanners in the works of my attempts to earn a crust here.

Far be it from me to take it personally, but I understand I am the only one of my school’s foreign teachers whose students are still unwelcome at school due to virus fears.

The earliest possible restart date for me is now March 16.

Meantime, I’m doing what I can to pay my way by teaching online. It’s not easy, because the mainly Japanese students have jobs, of all things, which mean that the peak teaching hours are awful ( 4 a.m. – 6 a.m. and 6.00 pm – 9.30 pm ).

As it stands, if school is again delayed on March 15 or earlier, I will more than likely be forced to leave Vietnam.

Schools still out

School is now out until March , which will for me force some difficult decisions.

After doing everything possible so I am firing on all cylinders for the scheduled Monday 17th restart, the let-down came this afternoon from the school’s head teacher.

So I’m all dressed up, but with no place to go.  In one sense.

In another – the financial – it leaves me way too exposed for my liking.  No school hours worked in February means no wage from the school until April 7.

Add to that the cost of rental, and renewing my Visa by March 1, and it starts to make less sense to stay here.

On the other hand, tickets back home aren’t cheap right now. And it’s unlikely the same Jackpot job will be waiting for me on my return.

So it may be just as well to hunker down and work my butt off online for a bit.

And yet, March in Whangarei is the best time….