Hospital gears up to receive 120 COVID-19 patients from Equatorial Guinea

July 28, 2020 - 14:36

The plane is set to carry home 219 Vietnamese citizens working in Equatorial Guinea, including 120 who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. 


Medical staff show their determination before setting off for Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday morning. — Photo courtesy of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases 

HÀ NỘI — A special flight to repatriate more than 100 confirmed COVID-19 patients from Africa left Hà Nội on Tuesday morning and is set to arrive back later Wednesday.

The plane is set to carry home 219 Vietnamese citizens working in Equatorial Guinea, including 120 who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. 

“It is an enormous challenge to bring home 120 COVID-19 patients. The risk of infection will be extremely high as the aircraft’s space is narrow so the virus concentration will be intense,” said doctor Thân Mạnh Hùng of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, one of four medical professionals escorting the flight. 

The hospital’s doctors worked with the Việt Nam Aviation Authority, the flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and Hà Nội University of Science and Technology (HUST) to plan the trip. 

According to Hùng, the aircraft will be divided into four sections from the rear area to the top for COVID-19 patients, citizens who have not been tested or tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, medical staff and cabin crew. 

Each section will be separated from the others using plastic curtains to minimise cross-infection. 

The outbound flight from Việt Nam to Equatorial Guinea will take 12 hours while the return will take about 15 hours. 

HUST has created makeshift positive air pressure rooms on the plane to ensure safety for cabin crew and medical staff when they need to take off face masks to eat. 

“Different from negative air pressure rooms used to isolate COVID-19 patients, preventing pathogens from spreading outside, these positive air pressure rooms hinder pathogens from entering inside,” said Hùng. 

Passengers will be divided into groups of 15 to 20 people to eat at a time.

The hospital’s doctors will carry two ventilators, two nebulisers, two ultrasound machines and endotracheal tubes in case of emergency. 

“We arranged two stretchers in the patients’ section. All severely ill patients will take the first seats for immediate interventions when in need,” he added. 

The cabin attendants will wear hazmat suits and have also received training to properly deal with emergencies to prevent infection, according to Hùng. 

The hospital prepares medical and personal protection equipment for this special flight. — Photo courtesy of NHTD 

Hospital reserved for patients

The National Hospital for Tropical Diseases – Campus 2 in Hà Nội’s outlying district of Đông Anh has stopped receiving people and transferred patients to its campus on Giải Phóng Street in downtown Hà Nội and other medical facilities in preparation for admitting the COVID-19 patients from Equatorial Guinea. 

Doctor Phạm Ngọc Thạch, the hospital’s director, told media that on Wednesday, it would receive “the unprecedented number of COVID-19 patients” including 10 to 15 severely ill patients. 

All 400 to 500 patient rooms at Campus 2 will be secured for passengers of the special flights to ensure safe distances. 

The hospital has also prepared 100 ventilators, medicine and other equipment for testing and treatment.

More than 250 workers including medical staff have been mobilised to serve returnees. All of them will also be quarantined at the hospital to prevent community transmission.

Three Ohmni robots gifted by the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) will be used for the first time, helping doctors remotely communicate with patients and monitor their conditions. — VNS 

The aeroplane is divided into separate sections. — VNA/VNS Photo