Transport ministry to inspect Vietnam Airlines pandemic protocols

By Doan Loan   December 4, 2020 | 04:23 pm PT
Transport ministry to inspect Vietnam Airlines pandemic protocols
A Vietnam Airlines Covid-19 quarantine area in HCMC's Tan Binh District. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Airlines.
The Transport Ministry will examine the anti-pandemic protocols of Vietnam Airlines after a flight attendant sparked fresh Covid-19 community transmissions in the country.

The health department under the ministry has been asked to work with the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam to set up an inspection team and critically examine Covid-19 prevention and control protocols of the national flag carrier by December 10.

Among other things, the team will check implementation of the government's regulations on Covid-19 prevention and control, the airline’s quarantine processes and employee supervision in its quarantine facilities.

The move to carry out such an inspection follows the latest Covid-19 outbreak in HCMC triggered by a 28-year-old Vietnam Airlines flight attendant, "patient 1342," who violated his quarantine rules, snapping the country’s 89-day streak with no community transmissions.

Deputy Minister of Transport Le Anh Tuan has also ordered Vietnam Airlines to review its implementation of Covid-19 prevention regulations and clarify the responsibilities of organizations and individuals in letting the flight attendant contract the virus from a colleague in its isolation facility.

"Vietnam Airlines needs to analyze, evaluate and clarify the violations and recommend specific solutions on Covid-19 prevention and control in the coming time," he said.

HCMC has opened a criminal investigation into his breach of Covid-19 quarantine protocols, which has so far lead to at least three others being infected with the novel coronavirus.

He has been suspended from his job and will be considered for dismissal.

The flight attendant had returned to Vietnam from Japan on November 14 and was quarantined for four days at a facility managed by Vietnam Airlines in HCMC's Tan Binh District.

He breached quarantine rules, moving to another quarantine area and contracting the virus from another crew member who had returned from Romania. This showed lack of strict management in the centralized quarantine facility run by Vietnam Airlines, HCMC health officials said. Under current rules, even members working on the same flight are not allowed to contact each other during the quarantine period.

After two tests showed he was negative for the coronavirus, the flight attendant was allowed to go home, but told, as per protocol, to isolate himself at home.

However, during his self-isolation, the airline employee came into contact with his mother and two friends, including a Vietnamese man working as an English teacher who came to stay with him for a few days.

As a result, the teacher and two others – a nephew and a student of the teacher – have contracted the virus.

The flight attendant also told authorities he had left home during the self-isolation period to eat out and to attend class at a university.

The city has shut down two Vietnam Airlines quarantining facilities on Hong Ha Street in Tan Binh District and several dozen staff have been moved to hotels designated as quarantine facilities. The carrier’s isolation facility in Hanoi is still operational, and health authorities are closely monitoring its quarantine process to avoid similar incidents like in HCMC.

Vietnam’s current Covid-19 tally stands at 1,361, with 1,220 recoveries and 35 deaths.

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