“The holiday is here for everyone, but not hospitals and patients. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are busier,” said Dinh, a Vietnamese doctor who has been working in Huntington Beach, California for 23 years.
On the evening of December 23, Dinh planned to go to five hospitals to examine Covid-19 patients as a family doctor. This routine will not change during Christmas because the number of new patients has been surging, he said.
In the U.S., thousands of families have lost loved ones this holiday season as the country reported its second-highest number of coronavirus deaths in one day on December 22 – 3,401.
As of December 24, the country has recorded more than 18.7 million Covid-19 cases. Hospitalizations were at an all-time high at 119,463.
According to the Covid Tracking Project, in nine states, more people are hospitalized with Covid-19 than at any other point in this pandemic: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire and North Carolina.
In Orange County, where a lot of Vietnamese diaspora live, around 4,600 new cases are recorded every day. Even though many local restaurants and cafes have closed and followed the authorities’ orders to contain the spread of the virus, many people have partied, gone out without masks, and failed to follow social-distancing rules.
A woman walks past a window display with Father Christmas wearing a protective mask during the second Covid-19 national lockdown in Lille, France, November 30, 2020. Photo by Reuters.
“In three hospitals that I visited, most of the patients are Vietnamese. The percentage of Vietnamese patients are higher than that of Latinos and people of Middle Eastern descent,” said Dinh. He said the virus has spread more in winter, especially when a lot of people attended rallies and protests in November.
After a year of upheaval, Dinh has given up on the idea of decorating his house and having a Christmas with his family.
“We will stay at home, eating home cooked dishes and open our Christmas gifts with no relatives and friends around. For the sake of our health and safety, sacrificing some fun activities is not a big deal.”
A quiet Christmas with no party or gathering has become in many other Covid-19 hotspots, including London, the U.K., where millions are required to stay at home and all non-essential shops have closed with a lockdown enforced since earlier this month.
Businesswoman Sharon Vu and her family should have decorated their house in November. But this year, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, shops are closed and gatherings aren’t permitted.
The traditional Christmas markets have vanished, and there is no place for Sharon and her family and to go for the festival.
“It is sadder this year as we cannot venture out and sightsee to celebrate Christmas. We have canceled our Christmas party as we cannot invite our friends,” she said.
Worrying about the pandemic, she has not gone to supermarkets for five days, even locals have rushed to many stored and stocked up on food in the last few days.
On December 23, the U.K. recorded nearly 40,000 new Covid-19 cases, a record as the death rate hit the highest seen since April, and the country is bracing against a new wave that experts say appears to be far more contagious and dangerous.
“I have limited my shopping expeditions as we have enough food, and queuing at supermarkets poses infection risks,” Vu said.
A careful day
In Paris, one of the Covid-19 hotspots in Europe, Chi Nguyen will spend her Christmas Day like a normal day, after living in lockdown for months.
Malls and restaurants still open, but close after 8 p.m. People work from home and do not go out after dusk.
“In the past, around 30 of us would gather at my parents-in-law’s house on December 25. But this year, we are staying at home. The parents are old so we must be careful,” said Chi, whose husband is French.
“My three-year-old son had a runny nose, cough and fever, so my husband had to take him home immediately because we were afraid he could have the virus and infect our parents.”
Also fighting for the second wave of the pandemic, Vietnamese in Russia are having a blue Christmas even though there is no lockdown in force.
In Moscow, streets have been decorated along with other central squares, and a traditional Christmas market has opened on Manezhnaya Square.
But when the country is getting more than 30,000 new cases per day, people are advised to avoid venturing out and gathering, and to maintain social distancing. All public events have been canceled.
A view shows the Vologda City Hospital Number 1, where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease are treated, in Vologda, Russia November 24, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Anton Vaganov.
“When many people go out and take photos, I choose to avoid those places and remain careful,” said Xuan Hoan, a Ph.D. student in Moscow.
He added that he would have no party or meeting with friends so as to minimize infection risks.
In South Korea, Vietnamese students are not organizing Christmas parties or picnics as they have done in previous years.
“No Christmas and New Year’s Eve for us,” said Thien Quang, a Vietnamese student at the Hannam University in Daejeon.
Many resorts and tourist hotspots in the country have closed.
South Korea is facing the third wave of the pandemic, and more than 1,000 new cases are recorded daily. It has been reported that capital Seoul will run out of hospital beds soon.
Quang is now looking at the possibility of celebrating Tet, the Lunar New Year (February 2021) far from home.
“I wish the pandemic will be contained so I can return to Vietnam and celebrate Tet with my parents and girlfriend,” he said, adding a lot of Vietnamese students in South Korea are yearning for family reunions.
Dinh encourages people to accept the current difficulties posed by the Covid-19 and take all protective measures, so that the pandemic will be gone soon.
“Just call and talk on the phone, celebrate the vacation on videos to stay safe. My message for this year is: stay at your place, breathe with your own lungs, the further we are from each other the longer we will live, just try and sacrifice a bit this Christmas.”
Agreeing with Dinh, Sharon, whose business has decreased by 50 percent, said that health is the most important thing. Only then can one people look ahead.
“I hope that in 2021, the pandemic will be controlled and we will be able to return to normal.”