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  07 Sep 2021, 11:22

'My saviour': Hanoi's tiny balconies a refuge in lockdown

HANOI, Sept 7, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Overlooking deserted streets, Hanoi's tiny

balconies have become places of refuge as the city's locked-down residents
squeeze desks, yoga mats and comfy seats for coffee drinking into their share
of fresh air.

  Eight million people living in the Vietnamese capital have been under a
strict stay-at-home order since late July, allowed out only for trips to get
food or hospital visits.

  Although the lockdown is beginning to ease in some parts of the city, most
residents must stay home for at least another two weeks as the nationwide
death toll from Covid-19 continues to climb.

  "My only connection to the outside world has been through my tiny balcony,"
said Nguyen Xuan Anh, an office worker who lives in a high-rise residential
block.

  Anh has squeezed a desk onto her three-square-metre (32-square-foot)
balcony, once home to ornamental trees.

  It's small, but large enough for her to work there on a laptop and drink
her morning coffee while surveying the silence of a street once jam-packed
with motorbikes and cars.

  "Before, I had no time to even stand for five minutes on my balcony. Now,
it's become my saviour," Anh told AFP.

  With outdoor exercise banned, it's not uncommon to see people linger for
hours in their limited outside space.

  "I hide on my balcony, my corner, almost the whole day," said Tran Trung
Quan, an IT engineer.

  "It's not nice to stay indoors all day, with the kids causing so much
trouble that you cannot concentrate on your work".

  Vietnam, widely praised last year for its handling of the pandemic, has
been badly hit by Covid-19 since a fourth wave began in April.

  The country has reported more than 500,000 infections and over 13,000
deaths.

  Several cities and provinces, including the southern business hub Ho Chi
Minh City, have been under lockdown for months.

  "My only wish now is the lockdown order be removed, so that I can go back
to work," Trung said.

  "It's just too much for me to handle from this tiny balcony."

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