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Vietnam's stores offer free groceries amid pandemic

Vietnam's stores offer free groceries amid pandemic
Companies in Vietnam have opened new stores to provide free groceries for people in need during the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo

April 17 (UPI) -- Vietnam's grocery stores are offering free groceries in addition to "rice ATMs" for people in need amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Supermarkets in major population centers including Hanoi are offering free rice through rice dispensers or "ATMs." Some stores are also distributing without charge eggs, cooking oil and salt to needy customers, South Korean news agency Yonhap's Vietnam correspondent reported Friday.

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The system of a chain of supermarkets called "Happiness" could be easing economic hardships for low-income people in Vietnam. The country has reported less than 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and no deaths, following early action and the enforcement of strict penalties. The impact of a global downturn could be hitting the local economy, however.

Vietnam's "Happiness" stores require shoppers to show some form of identification that includes an address. The shops allow each customer to pick up about $5 worth of free groceries per visit, with such visits limited to two times weekly, according to reports. Vietnam's GDP per capita is about $2,600, according to 2018 estimates.

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Local companies are funding the stores, including financial firm APEC Group and real estate developers, Yonhap reported.

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Vietnam's free rice dispensers can be found in at least three locations in Hanoi. They are also showing up in Ho Chi Minh City and in various provinces.

Local residents can procure anywhere from 3.3 to 6.6 pounds of rice per visit. Each household is limited to one visit per day.

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Vietnam's success in fighting back the coronavirus may have been possible due to early implementation, strict social distancing policies and heavy penalties for those who violate the law, NPR reported Thursday.

One man was sentenced to nine months in prison for failing to wear a mask, according to the report.

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