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Vietnam Airlines Covid-19 spreader receives two-year probation

March 30, 2021 | 18:16

The flight attendant who violated Covid-19 protocols last November is handed a two-year suspended sentence for spreading the dangerous infectious disease to the community.

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Duong Tan Hau at the Ho Chi Minh People's Court, March 30, 2021. (Photo: VNE)

“Awaring of the enormous danger of the Covid-19 pandemic though, the defendant did not comply with the medical isolation protocols, causing serious consequences”, a representative from the People’s Procuracy said, adding that Hau deserved a suspended sentence of 2-3 years.

Speaking at the trial at the People’s Courts of Ho Chi Minh City on March 30 afternoon, Duong Van Hau, 29, acknowledged his wrongdoings but said he did not intentionally spread the virus and therefore does not deserve a criminal charge.

“I was too confident that I was virus-free because the test results came out negative twice. I acknowledge my mistake and would like to apologize to the three others infected and the entire community”, Hau was quoted by VNE as saying. He expressed his remorse and hope to get a light penalty so that he could continue to support his family financially in the future.

The management board of Vietnam Airlines’ designated quarantine zone and the medical station of Ward 2, Tan Binh district (where Hau lives) are also to be blamed for the incident. The two units receive administration punishment, as reported by VNE.

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Hau and his lawyer at the Ho Chi Minh People's Court, March 30, 2021. (Photo: VNE)

Hau breached regulations when staying at the airline’s quarantine facility and after returning home for designated self-isolation. His irresponsibility triggered a community outbreak of the novel coronavirus, according to police.

As per Vietnam’s protocols on Covid-19 prevention, pilots and attendants need to use dedicated restrooms and their own vehicles once off the plane. No contact is allowed with passengers during flights.

After two tests showed he was negative for the novel coronavirus, Hau was released from the airline’s facility but told to isolate himself at home for another 14 days.

At home, Hau came in contact with his mother and two friends, including a visiting English language teacher.

On Nov. 29, 15 days after he returned from Japan, he tested positive for the virus, with the teacher the following suit the next day. The latter later infected a nephew and a student.

Upon contracting the novel virus, the flight attendant was treated at Cu Chi hospital, Ho Chi Minh city. During his stay in the hospital, Hau expressed remorse for setting off the Covid-19 outbreak.

"I was frightened after contracting the novel coronavirus, but I think I could overcome it because I am young and healthy," the 28-year-old told VnExpress on Friday.

He claimed to have cried when he came to know he was the source of community transmission.

"I felt regretful from the first moment and very repentant as my behavior has affected the whole society."

On hearing he faces criminal charges for violating quarantine regulations and infecting at least three others, he was "very scared and shocked."

He worked on flights to repatriate Vietnamese stuck in France, Australia and the U.K., and said he got many encouraging messages from passengers on those flights while in hospital.

"These words of encouragement helped me feel less heartbroken after being hurt by the viciousness on social media."

He has come under severe criticism on social media, with many blasting him for his lack of awareness. Hau was placed under criminal investigation for his actions on Jan. 11, and is held under house arrest.

Dire consequences

The outbreak broke Vietnam's 89-day and Ho Chi Minh City's 120-day streak without community transmissions at the time.

Authorities concluded Hau’s actions had resulted in around VND4.475 billion in damage, including the cost for Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and isolation. The lives of over 2,000 people in HO CHI MINH CITY were also affected by quarantine measures.

Hau is the first case in Vietnam where flouting Covid-19 prevention regulations is treated as a crime, but he was not the last. Two others, a man in Mekong Delta’s Vinh Long Province who illegally entered Vietnam and a woman in northern Hai Duong Province who did not declare her travel itinerary nor who she came in contact with, are also being probed on the same charge.

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