TWO: Street Vendor Struggles: Maintaining a Livelihood Through the COVID-19 Lockdown in Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam’s first COVID- 19 case was confirmed on 22 January 2020, with a second wave taking hold from July 2020. The Vietnamese government’s initial mitigation strategies included a mandatory quarantine for travelers from COVID- 19- affected countries and a strong public health campaign (Ivic, 2020). On 19 March, after a rise in cases, Hanoi People’s Committee advised all residents to self- isolate at home until the month’s end (Reuters, 2020). This preceded a national lockdown from 1 to 23 April 2020 following Directive 16, which temporarily closed all but essential services, resulting in rapid unemployment increases in both formal and informal sectors (Trần Oanh, 2020).

One of the informal sector groups hit hard by the pandemic and Directive 16 was Hanoi’s migrant street vendors (VOA News, 2020). Street vending supports thousands of households in Hanoi and the surrounding hinterland, with those involved – predominantly women – often being rural- to- urban migrants who lack the formal education skills to secure ‘modern’ urban employment. They are drawn to the city due to opportunities to contribute to their broader household livelihoods, especially to pay for farming inputs and children’s school fees. Yet, prior to COVID- 19, these street vendors were already facing tough conditions, with a 2008 street vending ban covering 62 streets and 48 public spaces in Hanoi’s urban core, curtailing access to favorable trading sites (Turner and Schoenberger, 2012). Directive 16 then halted their work completely, at least in theory.

This chapter draws on semi- structured interviews with 31 street vendors in Hanoi completed between May and July 2020 as COVID- 19 restrictions relating to the first wave were lifting and before the second wave hit.

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