Overseas students: stay put or return home
"Go home please, people are rushing home and so should you!"
This call has been repeated time and again in recent days as mothers urge their children who are studying overseas to return home in the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Nguyễn Thu Hương said in tears she was trying to convince her 22 year-old daughter who is stuck now in Melbourne to fly home, but she had refused.
Her daughter explained that she felt safe where she was and did not plan on moving.
Hương, 47, the owner of a hotel in Hà Nội, said: “What worries me the most is that my daughter has water on the lungs and sclerosis.”
COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for people with underlying diseases or chronic respiratory and lung problems.
The tearful phone calls between the mother and daughter have taken place many times over the past two weeks.
“One day, I called her a dozen times but my daughter was sleeping, so she did not pick up the phone. I had to call all her friends to ask them to tell her to come home.”
Hương’s daughter Hà An said she understood her mother's concerns but she had not thought about returning home to avoid the pandemic.
“I think that during the pandemic, airports and planes are the most dangerous places to be due to the number of people crowded into a small space,” Hà An told her mother via phone.
“No one can completely avoid the risk of infection. Even when the disease is diagnosed, it is impossible to determine who the source was.”
Last Sunday, Hương calmly accepted that her daughter would not return home. Every day, she and her husband spend an hour or two talking to their daughter to make sure she is ok.
The Vietnamese Embassy in Australia has issued a notice advising Vietnamese people living in Australia to remain calm, avoid panic and take the initiative to prevent the pandemic from spreading.
State governments in Australia have issued orders to close state borders, so Vietnamese people living in Australia should take preventive measures due to the high risk of infection if they moved back to Việt Nam.
Nguyễn Diệu Nương said she was confident that her daughter, a third year student in France, was staying safe.
"I believe in her. She told me that she knows how to take care of herself, and has fruit and ginger tea at home.
“I am not in favour of her returning home to avoid the pandemic. At this time, if you have no symptoms, staying indoors is the safest option.
“If you stay at home and avoid large gatherings, and wear a mask when you have to go out while maintaining social distancing, you should be fine, “ she said.
“The chance of contracting COVID-19 is very small (5 per cent).”
“If overseas students flock back to the country, the possibility of spreading the virus at airports and on flights is very high”
Agreeing with Nương, the mother of a 20-year-old girl studying in South Korea, said: “Staying in Seoul will be better for her studies later. I'm not sure if my girl would be able to return to South Korea, and a lot of the procedures would have to be redone.
“I think that people who don't return home at this time contribute to reducing the burden on the country, as well as showing their patriotism and responsibility at a time when the whole country is fighting the pandemic.”
In the debate about whether people should return home or stay put, all decisions should be respected because we don't know the underlying causes. Whoever chooses to return, we wish them a safe trip. Whoever chooses to stay, we should keep them updated about measures to fight the pandemic.
Hà Nội Mayor Nguyễn Đức Chung said his son was studying in the US in the most severely affected region.
“The school is closed to prevent the pandemic. Three weeks ago I phoned him and told him to rent a flat. I advised him to buy enough food to last until the end of June and stay at home for 90 days."
Chung believes the main source of infections is Vietnamese and foreigners arriving from overseas. VNS
So-called humanitarian flights are bringing back overseas Vietnamese from Europe as the continent has become the new epicentre of the global health crisis.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) has recommended Vietnamese students abroad consider carefully before returning to Vietnam due to the risks of spreading COVID-19 and travel restrictions imposed by many countries.