A machine operating at all hours on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City is dispensing free rice for people out of work during Vietnam’s national coronavirus lockdown.
Dubbed 'Rice ATMS,' anyone coming to collect rice from the dispensers must wait in line while standing six feet apart and use hand sanitizer before filling up. A tech Vietnamese businessman, Hoang Tuan Anh, is behind the initiative. Each person is allowed 1.5 kilograms of rice twice a day by queuing up -- and maintaining social distance -- at the machines.
Anh’s first machine, located in Ho Chi Minh City’s densely-packed Tan Phu District that is home to many workers from rural provinces, dispensed 5 tons of rice in the first two days of operation, the Thanh Nien newspaper reported.
Since it went into service April 6, other businesses and donors have followed by setting up these machines elsewhere in the nation’s commercial hub, as well as in the capital of Hanoi and other cities across the country.
“This rice ATM has been helpful. With this one bag of rice, we can have enough for one day,” Nguyen Thi Ly, a 34-year-old mother of three whose husband lost his job, told Reuters. “Now, we only need other food. Our neighbors sometimes gave us some leftover food, or we have instant noodles.”
Vietnam’s government says about 5 million workers have been furloughed or laid off due to the fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak. Its social distancing order went into effect April 1, allowing only businesses providing essential services to remain open.
Vietnam has reported 270 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. But because the country has been on lockdown since March 31, many businesses have been forced to shutter and furlough employees.