108 illegal entrants caught in HCMC in one month

By Quoc Thang   April 28, 2021 | 11:30 pm PT
108 illegal entrants caught in HCMC in one month
HCMC medics take samples from people arriving from Da Nang, then a Covid-19 hotspot, for testing, July 31, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ha An.
Ho Chi Minh City has apprehended 108 illegal entrants over the past month, though authorities admit many more may have gone undetected, posing a significant coronavirus risk.

Illegal entrants first entered Vietnam through the land border, waterways and even less-traveled paths to avoid detection, before reaching HCMC, Nguyen Sy Quang, deputy director of the municipal police department, said Wednesday.

Police are ramping up measures to strike at human smuggling rings and are requesting HCMC People’s Committee to instruct authorities to heavily fine or even revoke the licenses of residences accommodating illegal entrants. Hotels and motels that do so would face criminal investigation, he added.

HCMC is at high risk of a new Covid-19 outbreak from outside the border due to illegal entrants, said director of its Department of Health Nguyen Tan Binh. Surrounding countries, Cambodia for instance, have been recording surges of infection as of late, so more Vietnamese would want to return home, which may contribute to an increased number of illegal entries, he noted.

Cambodia has been in the grip of a new wave since late February. Its caseload has crossed 11,700, after recording only around 400 cases the whole of last year.

The municipal Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also warned illegal entrants would enter Vietnam then visit medical facilities for disease diagnosis and treatment. For example, on April 20 two people traveled by boat to illegally enter An Giang Province from Cambodia, before catching a coach to HCMC and attending Tu Du ob-gyn hospital.

After receiving the illegal entrants, 39 doctors who had been in close contact with them had to be tested for the coronavirus. So far, all results have returned negative.

Nguyen Thanh Phong, chairman of the municipal People’s Committee, said the actual number of illegal entrants might be severely under-reported, meaning authorities must try even harder to stop them.

The committee has requested families with loved ones overseas to return to Vietnam using legal means so they could be quarantined and treated if infected.

The National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control on Tuesday said it would urge the government to make Covid testing and quarantining free for those entering through the land border since most of them are poor.

HCMC, Vietnam's largest city, has not recorded any community transmissions for over two months, and Vietnam over one month.

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