The Ho Chi Minh City police launched on March 2 criminal proceedings against Duong Tan Hau, a Vietnam Airlines attendant, for spreading Covid-19 to others, under Article 240 of the 2015 Criminal Code.
Ho Chi Minh City police said that the People’s Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City had received an investigation conclusion and other documents linked to a case of “spreading contagious disease to others” involving the 28-year-old flight attendant, who is Covid-19 Patient 1,342 in Vietnam.
Hau breached regulations when making contacts with others while undergoing self-isolation at home. Such act triggered a community outbreak of the novel coronavirus, according to police.
Duong Tan Hau (left) listens as a police officer reads a decision to place him under house arrest to be investigated for spreading Covid-19 in the community. Photo: Ho Chi Minh City police
On November 14, 2020, Hau and a Vietnam Airlines flight crew were tested for Covid-19 upon arrival in Vietnam from Japan and put under quarantine. With two negative test results, he was placed under isolation at a paid quarantine facility in Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Binh district until November 28, 2020.
However, Hau broke the rules by visiting others in the same quarantine area and ended up contracting the virus from another flight attendant returning from Romania.
Hau also left home to meet a friend and take a test at Hutech University while in mandatory self-isolation. He tested positive on November 28, while his friend tested positive two days later.
As per Vietnam’s protocols on Covid-19 prevention, pilots and attendants are provided exclusive restrooms and vehicles once off the plane. They are not allowed to make contact with passengers during flights.
The police said Hau’s act caused material losses of over VND4.4billion (US$193,870), and altered lives of over 2,000 people in the city who were put in quarantine for directly and indirectly making contacts with him.
The outbreak broke Vietnam's 89-day and Ho Chi Minh City’s 120-day streak without community transmissions at the time.
Hau was placed under criminal investigation for his actions on January 11, 2021 and is held under house arrest.
He is the first person in Vietnam facing criminal process for flouting Covid-19 prevention protocols, but not the last.
Two others, a man in Mekong Delta’s Vinh Long province who illegally entered Vietnam and a woman in northern province of Hai Duong who did not declare her travel itinerary nor who she came in contact with, are also being probed on the same charge.
At the time of writing, Vietnam has recorded 2,475 Covid-19 cases so far, with 538 still active and 35 deaths.