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Covid-19 Outbreak Dampens Saigon's Trung Thu Spirits as Bakeries Forgo Moon Cakes

It will be a Trung Thu like no other this year in Saigon, as the city undergoes the strictest movement curbs yet.

There's less than a month to go before this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, which is due to take place on September 21, and yet Saigon streets are devoid of the familiar sight of pop-up moon cake shops. In fact, there is hardly anything on local thoroughfares these days, save for law enforcement officers and the occasional supply truck.

The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has wreaked havoc on many aspects of life in Saigon, from people’s employment and economic growth to the literal lives of thousands of patients. Because of logistical uncertainties, a number of moon cake producers have announced that they would forgo bánh Trung Thu baking this year.

Saigon-based ABC Bakery confirmed with VnExpress that the chain won't bake moon cakes this year. According to ABC founder Kao Siêu Lực, many staff members are under quarantine and a significant portion of outlets are closed due to manpower problems. He also said that the pandemic has dealt a blow to people’s disposable income; when even finding everyday meals is a challenge, moon cakes are an unattainable luxury.

Confectionery company Kido also shared the same sentiment in their decision to pass over moon cakes this year. “Because of the epidemic, moon cake production costs will rise so making them will cause financial difficulties for both the enterprise and consumers,” the company shared.

Some big names in this market have unveiled their moon cake designs for this year, such as Mondelez Kinh Do and Givral, or high-end hotels like Sheraton and Le Meridien. However, unlike previous years, the market for moon cake is drab due to a lack of small- and medium-sized boutiques, whose operation has been made impossible this year. 

According to VOH, online commerce platforms like Lazada, Tiki and Shopee have become a bustling battlefield for moon cake producers, though with increasingly stringent regulations on shipping activities in Saigon and Hanoi, it remains to be seen if the commercial sites can help shift moon cake stocks. As of today, shipping is suspended in Thu Duc City and seven districts in Saigon.

A dearth of moon cakes aside, Trung Thu in 2021 will probably pass without much fanfare like lantern streets or gatherings of children, both of which are crowded activities that have always been a yearly mainstay of Saigoneers but are likely superspreader events if held this year.

[Photo via Flickr user Steve Garfield]

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