Cần Thơ diocese helping people negatively impacted by COVID-19
by Joseph Tran

Some free supermarkets (Siêu Thị Zero Đồng) have been set up in a number of parishes in the Diocese of Cần Thơ to help the poor and those facing hardships due to the pandemic, with scores of people volunteering.

Cần Thơ (AsiaNews) – Vietnam put its entire southern region, which includes 19 provinces and municipalities, under lockdown starting midnight Sunday, to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading. The area is home to about 40 million people.

Local health authorities reported 52,164 SARS-CoV-2 cases for the period going from 27 April to 19 July. Hồ Chí Minh City is the most affected area with 32,926 cases.

Cần Thơ is the largest city in the Mekong Delta region, where the risk of rapid spread of the virus is high. Last Saturday, 15 COVID-19 cases were reported with about 90 people testing positive for the virus.

According to local media, provincial authorities in the Mekong Delta said that they can provide enough essential goods and food to people while implementing social distancing, even as they say they are concerned about the "transportation of goods and food” for residents.

Scores of people face many hardships following the start of the fourth pandemic wave in Vietnam.

To cope with the situation, some free supermarkets (Siêu Thị Zero Đồng) have been set up in some parishes in the Diocese of Cần Thơ to help the poor and those living in difficult circumstances.

Under lockdown, shops and even aid organisations have not been allowed to open to customers. In Sông Đốc (Diocese of Cần Thơ), this has meant that the local parish has not been able to receive people nor give to poor families in difficulty.

Instead, since early July, small groups of local volunteers (two or three people) have visited 181 poor families, both Catholic and non-Catholic, to deliver aid.

In Cái Tắc as residents feel the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the local free supermarket run by Catholics boosted a new delivery method at the start of the month.

Under the latter, poor families can use food purchasing books to get free food. About 150 families were the first to benefit from this, a number that has risen to 250 so far.

Free supermarket customers can pick the vegetables, tubers and fruit they need for their family. In the case of seniors and the disabled, who cannot go to the supermarket, volunteers directly deliver the food to them.

In Cà Mau, Vietnam’s southernmost point, the local Church – the parish priest, Father Peter, nuns, and members of the pastoral councils of 24 Catholic communities – split into small groups to bring aid to 700 poor families and individuals living in difficult conditions.

Many young Catholics have also helped poor and disabled residents, including about 100 blind people, 60 deaf children, 130 seniors living alone, as well as 25 families living in city’s TX area.

About a thousand poor families received cash, rice, noodles, soap, worth about a million VND (around US$ 44) each.

In order to do a good job helping the poor, many parish volunteers, members of the parish Caritas and diocesan Caritas as well as nuns got involved with free supermarkets, social groups and charities in local communities.