Vietnam Airlines’ medical quarantine centre in HCM City. Photo courtesy of the carrier
HCM CITY — A Vietnam Airlines flight attendant who “seriously violated Covid-19 quarantine regulations” on Tuesday received a two-year suspended sentence with a probation period of four years for “spreading dangerous infectious disease to people”, the HCM City People’s Court said.
Dương Tấn Hậu, 29, known as “Patient 1,342”, was charged under Clause 1, Article 240 of the Penal Code 2015, which can carry a jail term of up to 12 years.
However, the defendant qualified for a reduced sentence because he had “sincerely declared his guilt, had never committed a crime, and is the family’s only breadwinner as his father is seriously ill”, according to the court.
“There is no need to put him in prison, but a suspended sentence of two years is needed,” the court said.
Total damages caused by his act of spreading infectious disease to the community was assessed at VNĐ4.475 billion (US$190,000), including the cost of testing and quarantine for F1 (close contacts) and F2 (close contacts of F1) cases.
The HCM City Police investigation agency conducted a full investigation into the responsibilities of each individual and organisation involved in the case due to the serious consequences it caused.
The city is the first locality in the country to prosecute a case for this kind of violation under criminal law. In the past, people were only subject to administrative fines for such violations.
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 COVID-19 tests. During this period, he had contact with his mother and two friends.
Just a few days after the second test, he tested positive, and all three of his direct contacts were immediately screened. One of his two friends tested positive.
Unaware of the infection, the friend, a teacher at an English language centre, continued his daily routine. Two of his contacts, a one-year-old nephew and 29-year-old student, later tested positive.
Under COVID-19 prevention regulations, aircraft cabin crews must quarantine at a certain facility 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.
According to the city’s Health Department, Vietnam Airlines’ crew members must isolate themselves at the airline’s quarantine facility.
According to Dr. Trần Đắc Phu, adviser at the Centre for Emergency Public Health Events, if crew members in a centralised quarantine facility 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.
People under home quarantine are not allowed to leave home, and they must eat, live and sleep in an area separate from other family members. Interpersonal interactions must be minimised, according to guidelines from the General Department of Preventive Medicine. — VNS