HCM City Police said at a press conference yesterday that a Vietnam Airlines flight attendant “seriously violated Covid-19 quarantine regulations” and could face criminal charges. An investigation into the case is ongoing. VNS Photo Bồ Xuân Hiệp
HCM CITY — A Vietnam Airlines flight attendant who “seriously violated Covid-19 quarantine regulations” could face criminal charges, according to HCM City Police.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday (Dec 3) in the city, Colonel Nguyễn Sỹ Quang, deputy director of the city Police, said the police had determined that the case had led to serious consequences.
The HCM City Police’s investigation agency will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the responsibilities of each individual and organisation involved and determine if criminal charges are warranted.
“HCM City is the first locality to consider prosecuting a case of this kind under Article 240, Penal Code 2015,” he said.
In the past, people were only subject to administrative fines for such violations.
After nearly three months without community-transmitted COVID-19 infections, Việt Nam is once again on the alert as the city recorded three locally transmitted cases at the end of November.
The 28-year-old flight attendant, or “Patient 1,342”, could be charged with “spreading dangerous infectious disease to people”, which could carry a jail term of up to 12 years.
The flight attendant returned to Việt Nam from Japan on November 14, and stayed at a centralised quarantine facility managed by Vietnam Airlines in HCM City’s Tân Bình District for four days.
He was then allowed to self-quarantine at home after two negative tests. He had contact with his mother and two friends during the period.
When tests showed that he was positive just a few days after the second test, all of his three direct contacts were immediately screened and one of his two friends tested positive.
Unaware of the infection, the friend, a teacher at an English language centre, continued his daily routine, spreading the virus to at least two people, including a one-year-old nephew and a 28-year-old student of his.
Under Covid-19 prevention regulations, aircraft cabin crews must quarantine themselves on returning to Việt Nam. But the flight attendant went to another quarantine area and contracted the virus from an airline crew member who had returned from Romania.
As of the morning of December 3, HCM City had taken samples of 2,244 people related to the case of the flight attendant. Of these, 1,632 people had negative results, while 612 samples are waiting for results (including 11 cases of direct contact with infected people).
Following the incident, the Ministry of Transport announced that any airline whose crew members violate quarantine rules and transmit the infection would not be allowed to operate international flights.
Currently, flight attendants are allowed to have a short-term isolation period to ensure staff availability for flights.
Nguyễn Tấn Bỉnh, director of HCM City's Health Department, said that crew members of Vietnam Airlines’ flights are subject to quarantine in separate areas at the facility.
“Patient 1,342” visited another flight attendant without permission and contracted the virus from this person, he added.
Dr. Trần Đắc Phu, adviser at the Centre for Emergency Public Health Events, said that allowing flight attendants to continue their quarantine at home is in accordance with regulations.
While in a centralised quarantine facility, if crew members have two negative tests that are 72 hours apart and none of the passengers on their flight test positive, the crew members are permitted to leave the facility to continue the remaining 10 days of quarantine at their home residence.
If any of the first tests are positive, everyone on the flight has to undergo a full 14 days of quarantine.
According to guidelines from the General Department of Preventive Medicine, people under home quarantine are not allowed to leave home and must eat, live and sleep in an area separate from other family members. Interpersonal interactions must be minimised.
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has requested strict punishment for the violations that occurred in HCM City recently. He has demanded an investigation into the responsibility of individuals and organisations involved in the violations.
He said that everyone must remain calm and vigilant while continuing to seriously following preventive measures encouraged by the Ministry of Health, including wearing masks, washing hands thoroughly with soap or alcohol-based sanitiser, and spraying disinfectant.
Soon after the flight attendant case was exposed, the Government decided to suspend international flights and is only operating international flights for repatriated Vietnamese citizens who meet certain requirements.
As of yesterday morning, Việt Nam had recorded 1,358 Covid-19 cases, including 35 deaths. — VNS