Expats Parents Anxious About Reopening of Schools Amid Resurging Covid-19

With schools planning to reopen this month, foreign parents in Hanoi and HCMC are concerned about their children's safety from Covid-19.

Canadian Angela Campbell has mixed feelings about sending her 15-year-old daughter back to school: While she does not want her ninth grader to miss lessons due to prolonged school closure, she also fears the disease.

"I know vaccinated people can still get infected, so I am anxious," she says. The girl is fully vaccinated.

The news of school reopening is like "a hit to the gut" for Campbell and many other parents, according to VNE.

Students at the Quang Trung High School in Dong Da District, Hanoi, line up to be vaccinated against Covid-19, Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: VNE

Recently HCMC announced the two-week trial resumption of classes for all first, ninth and 12th graders starting Dec. 13.

In Hanoi, high school students will be back to school a week earlier.

But as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to rage, leading to hospitalization, including of children, parents have one pressing question: is it safe to go back to school?

Parents of first graders in Saigon are especially worried since children are yet to be vaccinated.

Ricky Valkeneer (C), an expat in Hanoi, with his wife and daughter in Hanoi, May 2020. Photo: VNERicky Valkeneer (C), an expat in Hanoi, with his wife and daughter in Hanoi, May 2020. Photo: VNE

The city Department of Health reported in November that 86 percent of infected people have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. In Hanoi, the rate was 62 percent.

Many people are also worried because it is hard to ensure children are careful, which puts them at higher risk.

According to the Ministry of Health, children under 18 account for around 17 percent of all Covid patients in Vietnam.

Sarah Lancet, mother of a first-grader in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District, is worried her daughter will take off her mask while playing with her friends in class or forget to sanitize her hands regularly when her parents are not around.

"[Kids] do not sit still or keep social distance during break times; how can they be safe from the virus?" the 39-year-old American asks. Her daughter’s school in Long Bien District plans to have fewer children in each classroom, "but I doubt its effectiveness since children still interact with each other on the playground and balcony".

Jacque Montague Raymer is also worried about children’s safety at school.

"It’s not about kids dying from Covid; it's about kids taking Covid home to infect parents and grandparents who then end up dying," he tells VNE.

Some parents support HCMC’s trial program, anxious for their kids’ social, emotional and intellectual development and worried they are not able to give their child adequate attention or, if they can, lose their incomes.

English teacher Laura Price, who lived in lockdown in Argentina and the U.K. before coming to Vietnam in July, said she is "very happy" for her fully vaccinated 16-year-old twins to return to school since "they need social contact and some normality".

While she is concerned about infection, she says she is "more concerned about their mental health right now".

First graders attend an in-person class at Thanh An Primary School in HCMC's outlying district of Can Gio, October 20, 2021. Photo: VNE

According to the HCMC Department of Education and Training, teachers and other school staff will be trained in pandemic prevention in early December.

City authorities have instructed all schools to complete Covid-19 safety plans before Dec. 3. They will have to be approved by local steering committees for Covid-19 Prevention and Control before the schools can reopen.

Hanoi schools are also required to implement pandemic prevention and control measures based on the guidelines provided by the Departments of Health and Education and Training.

Students will only attend school for half a day. Canteens will be closed.

On the first day of school, children will be trained in coronavirus prevention measures including medical declarations and others. If a student or teacher has symptoms like fever, cough or breathing difficulty, they need to stay back at home and inform the school.

But none of this enough to put parent at ease.

"I feel like I am putting my son at risk every day if he goes to school," Campbell says.

A medic inoculates Covid-19 vaccine to a high school girl in District 1, HCMC, Oct. 27, 2021. Photo: VNE

The Health Ministry reported 14,321 new Covid-19 cases in 61 provinces and cities Sunday, pushing the ongoing wave's tally to nearly 1.3 million cases.

The three localities with the highest number of new cases were Ho Chi Minh City with 1,491 cases, Can Tho with 1,132 and Tay Ninh with 792 cases.

Hanoi recorded 400 new cases on Sunday, cited VnExpress.

The Covid-19 death toll in Vietnam rose to 26,220 with the confirmation of 199 deaths on Sunday.

Health authorities also confirmed 1,711 recoveries the same day, bringing the total tally of recovered cases so far to 1,009,277.

Almost 54.1 million people of the nation's 96-million population have been fully vaccinated.