As heavy rain pounded many places in central Vietnam, three men wearing raincoats stood next to their pickup trucks outside the Phu Bai International Airport in Hue.
At 10 p.m. one of their phones rang. Almost immediately, the three men got into their vehicles and into the airport and stocked their pickup trucks with many boxes. The boxes contained 25,000 Covid-19 rapid test kits sent to Da Nang City and Quang Nam Province.
Nguyen Quy, 34, head of a real estate agency, Hung Le and Nguyen Hoai Duong are members of the Pickup Da Nang Club (PDC). They volunteered to pick up and transport the test kits after a suggestion from the Da Nang Youth Union.
Nguyen Quy, Hung Le and Hoai Duong (from L to R) stand outside the Phu Bai International Airport. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Quy.
With a confirmation paper from Da Nang’s Center of Diseases Control (CDC), the group, allowed to transport and install Covid-19 prevention equipment and gears, arrived at the Phu Bai International Airport at 9.40 p.m.
“The goods have not arrived. Since we come from Da Nang (a Covid-19 hotspot) and wear protective clothing, we stand some distance away from the airport’s gate,” Quy said. Once they received the phone call, they rushed into the airport and got the goods as quickly as possible to meet the deadline the next morning.
Three hours later, the boxes with 25,000 test kits arrived in Da Nang. 16,000 were given to Da Nang’s CDC, the rest followed Quy to the central province of Quang Nam.
It was only after he finished his mission and returned to Da Nang at around 10 a.m. that Quy remembered he had skipped dinner the day before.
The test kits transported by Quy and his friends are used for thousands of people in Da Nang and Quang Nam, helping local authorities identify infected people and control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We are all afraid of getting infected. But I think that when my Da Nang is facing difficulties, if I do not try and help the community and share their burden, when will my hometown be normal?” Quy said.
Since joining the PDC two years ago, Quy has been on many roads and visited many places. But the trip to Hue has been the most memorable experience. And he is not alone; 30 other club members are also transporting necessities and medical equipment to hospitals, medical centers and quarantine facilities in the central city, now Vietnam’s largest Covid-19 hotspot.
Since July 25 when community infections reemerged, 298 domestic cases have been reported. The epicenter Da Nang got 193 cases. Its neighbor Quang Nam Province got 29 cases.
Since he joined the mission last week, Quy has not dared to return home and see his wife, mother and two children.
“I have been to many places with high infection risk, so even though I wear protective gear, I am not sure whether I am infected or not,” he said.
Members of the Da Nang PDC transfer necessities to the Da Nang Hospital C. Photo courtesy of PDC
Since the semi-lockdown was imposed, Quy and his friends have to be at designated charity spots by 5 a.m. to receive food and take it to local hospitals. Whenever someone asks for their help with transporting goods, they get on the road immediately, day or night.
On some long journeys, the men do not get much time to have even their daily meals.
Every day, around ten pickup trucks in the club transport goods for free. On average, each vehicle makes 7-10 trips per day.
At first, when the fresh Covid-19 outbreak happened in Da Nang, there were not many people who joined the PDC’s community service activities. But after the club published information on their Facebook page, thousands of drivers gave their phone numbers and expressed their willingness to help.
Nguyen Tran Hoang Anh, 42, lead of the PDC’s quick response team, said most club members are business owners and managers at many companies in the central city.
“On hearing about the need for free delivery of goods, they have volunteered to help. They are happy and even excited to do it,” Hoang Anh said.
Local authorities appreciate the support they are getting from the PDC volunteers.
After Da Nang confirmed its first Covid-19 case on July 25 and the city went into a semi-lockdown three days later, bringing necessities and protective gear to local hospitals and quarantine facilities became a challenge.
“All transportation firms had suspended operations, so we had to come up with a solution,” Nguyen Manh Dung, Secretary of Da Nang Youth Union, said, explaining why he thought of asking the PDC for support.
“We are grateful and appreciate the club members’ enthusiasm,” Dung said. He said the volunteers helped without any hesitation; all he had to do was to give them addresses and other details of the deliveries.
The Youth Union has equipped the volunteers with masks and protective gear; and called on other companies to support PDC members with gasoline.
The club, having a hotline, also supports individuals and organizations having transportation demands.
Nguyen Hoang Bao An, residing in Hai Chau District, had prepared necessities for people dealing with Covid-19 in the city but could not deliver them.
“I surfed the web and saw the club delivering for free. I called them, and my order was accepted immediately. They made it within a day,” An said.
Wherever they go, the PDC volunteers see people who are in need. They respond to most calls for support shared on social media.
Over the last several days, hospitals and other quarantine facilities in Da Nang have received enough equipment and food items. But Quy and his friends are not done.
They have begun trips to the neighboring province of Quang Nam to support more people hit by the second wave of the novel coronavirus.