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Fighting back against Covid-19 in Vietnam

If you’re living just about anywhere on earth now, your life will have been impacted in some way by the arrival of Covid-19, the novel Coronavirus. In Vietnam, we’ve been dealing with it since late January, just before the Tet holiday, and our experience could in some ways be a foretaste of what the western world has coming. Vietnam’s relative success in managing the virus has also been held up in many quarters as an example of how to fight back. No surprise – it’s a nation with plenty of recent experience in repelling powerful foreign invaders.
At Vietnam in Focus, we’ve naturally been feeling the slowdown as much as anyone else, but as working photographers, we’ve always got an eye open for a telling image. Our friend in Saigon, Adrien Jean, has been out on the streets capturing the city’s characteristic response to Covid-19.

Photos by Adrien Jean

In Adrians Words

The recent coronavirus outbreak is having a huge impact worldwide, affecting the operations and relationships of countries on a global scale or calling into question major sport events like the Olympic Games. But what does the new pandemic imply for individuals in their daily lives?

Ho Chi Minh city, a place where people are constantly hyper connected, doesn’t escape the media hype, quite the opposite. It’s getting hard to sort out fact from fiction, but one thing is clear: fear has reached the streets over the last weeks.

Photos by Adrien Jean

Exploring the city through my lens on a daily basis, I have been a privileged witness of this exponential paranoia. Awareness campaign leaflets on the rise, hand sanitizers at each reception desk, security guards checking your temperature and last but not least, the sacred weapon against contagion: face masks spreading like wildfire. This is particularly true in the city center and around, where the virus is on everyone’s lips, whereas in more remote or obscure districts, life goes on. People there seem more concerned about surviving in this urban jungle than the possible outcomes of an abstract virus.

I didn’t plan to make a photo project about COVID-19 but after a few days roaming the streets and editing my images, an element kept repeating itself through my frames. As you probably already guessed, I am speaking of the holy grail of prevention: the face mask. These masks put a distance amongst people and they create a challenge for the photographer, making it harder to capture people’s expressions. But put together, they tell a story of fear of contagion, fear of others, fear of what’s coming next

Photos by Adrien Jean

Take care, stay healthy and keep washing your hands!

Here’s a Vietnamese song to remind you how to do just that, recently featured on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight

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