Laywers call for strict punishment against Covid-19 testing evaders

By Hai Duyen   August 15, 2020 | 10:18 pm PT
Laywers call for strict punishment against Covid-19 testing evaders
People returning from Da Nang wait to have their samples taken for Covid-19 testing at a medical center in HCMC's Binh Thanh District, July 28, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Thuan Nguyen.
Lawyers have confirmed HCMC could legally charge returnees from epicenter Da Nang that skipped health declaration procedures.

At least 3,000 people returning from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City in July have not reported themselves or showed up for testing as required.

City Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong this week said those trying to evade the process or lied about their health status could face criminal charges.

Commenting on the city’s move, lawyers said it had all the legal basis to act, adding even more stringent measures could be applied.

Lawyer Truong Xuan Tam, chairman of the Bar Association of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province that borders HCMC, said the authorities' threat is necessary and valid.

Those that do not complete health declaration procedures, evade medical quarantine, skip Covid-19 testing or refuse to take the test and cause the new coronavirus to spread must be charged with "spreading dangerous infectious diseases to humans" in accordance with the 2015 Penal Code.

He suggested that in case the violators have not been found to have caused the virus to spread, the city should apply a fine of VND5-10 million ($215-430) in line with a 2013 government decree that regulates administrative punishments in the healthcare sector.

"This fine is still too low compared to the $10,000 in Singapore or 5,000 euros ($6,000) in Italy and 10,000 euros in Germany," Tam said.

As Vietnam has yet to draw up regulations for those violating Covid-19 healthcare rules, authorities should rely on existing rules to provide timely deterrence, he said.

Lawyer Huynh Thanh Thi from the HCMC Bar Association said the city has been doing the greatest job in controlling and dealing with Covid-19 among all major cities in Vietnam, given it is the country’s economic hub and faces the highest infection risk.

However, so far, the strictest regulation the city has issued is a fine of up to VND300,000 ($13) for not wearing a mask in public, encouraging residents to help prevent the spread of infection.

Meanwhile, other major cities like Hanoi, Da Nang and Hai Phong have issued sub-law documents that regulate specific behavior related to evading the health declaration process.

Thi suggested HCMC rely on current regulations to deal with evaders. He said the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases states that quarantine is mandatory for those suspected to carry the disease or having contact with anyone that could have been infected.

Those that insist on evading the health declaration process, quarantine and testing, and at the same time prevent authorities from fulfilling their tasks are subjected to the charge of "resisting those conducting public duties" as per the criminal code, he said.

Around 140,000 people have returned to HCMC from Da Nang since July 1. After the country's first community transmission case in more than three months was confirmed in Da Nang on July 25, authorities nationwide have required the central city returnees to report themselves.

Vietnam’s protocols on Covid-19 prevention state all those that had visited stricken areas must be isolated and tested.

Since the resurgence, HCMC had recorded 11 new infections, including eight local transmissions related to the Da Nang outbreak.

In late March, Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court asked all civil and military courts across the country to apply Article 240 in the criminal code against those escaping quarantine and submitting false health declarations.

Those supplying fraudulent medical declarations or evading medical quarantine when returning from Covid-19 stricken areas can be jailed for up to five years.

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