Vietnam halts all inbound commercial flights

By Viet Tuan, Huu Cong   December 1, 2020 | 06:53 am PT
Vietnam halts all inbound commercial flights
A Vietnam Airlines aircraft after finishing a commercial flight bringing passengers from South Korea to Hanoi on September 25, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered a temporary halt to all inbound international commercial flights following Vietnam’s new Covid-19 community transmissions.

He said at a cabinet meeting Tuesday that only repatriation flights will be allowed to bring home Vietnamese citizens.

Mai Tien Dung, head of the government office, said the suspension aims to give Vietnam better control over the spread of infection and quarantining of arrivals.

"The government will still allow repatriation flights to bring home those who are really old, sick or facing financial issues," Dung said.

On Monday, Vietnam’s 89-day streak without any community transmission was snapped when a man in Ho Chi Minh City was confirmed a Covid-19 patient after contracting the virus from his friend, a flight attendant.

After Vietnam halted all international flights from March 25 in an unprecedented move to stem the Covid-19 outbreak, the government green-lighted in September the resumption of commercial flights to seven Asian destinations - mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. However, Vietnamese carriers have not yet been allowed to operate inbound flights while the government finalizes quarantine procedures for foreign passengers.

The PM asked for clarification on the irresponsibility that allowed the latest situation in HCMC.

He said the Ministry of Health and the city authorities have to make clear the responsibility of each individual and organization in the quarantine process of the Vietnam Airlines flight attendant, now "Patient 1342."

Related agencies should also implement "stronger methods" in managing the quarantine process, the PM ordered.

The flight attendant, 28, had returned to Vietnam from Japan on November 14 and was quarantined for four days at a facility managed by Vietnam Airlines in HCMC. After two tests showed he was negative for the coronavirus, he was released from the facility and was asked to isolate himself at his home on Bach Dang Street, Ward 2, Tan Binh District.

The short-term quarantine is a preferential treatment granted only to flight attendants as per current Covid-19 prevention protocol to ensure availability of staff for subsequent flights. Under this protocol, the entire flight crew are quarantined in centralized camps when they return to Vietnam. They undergo two tests at least 72 hours in between. If the results of both tests are negative for the novel coronavirus, they are allowed to go home and self-quarantine themselves for 14 days.

However, "Patient 1342" 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 several days.

Fifteen days after he returned to Vietnam, on November 29, the flight attendant tested positive for the virus, and the very next day, his English teacher friend followed suit. The latter was tagged Monday as "Patient 1347."

The teacher, a 32-year-old man living in District 6, has infected at least two others: a one-year-old nephew and a 28-year-old female student, confirmed Tuesday as patients 1349 and 1350.

At a municipal meeting held after the cabinet meeting, HCMC chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong asked related agencies to look into current regulations, especially the 2007 law on the prevention and control of infectious diseases, to handle violations by the flight attendant.

Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the city’s health department, said "Patient 1342" had not just violated rules of self-quarantine at home, but also at the centralized camp of Vietnam Airlines. He had intruded into the space of another flight crew and contracted the virus from another attendant who had been confirmed as "Patient 1325" on November 26.

"This demonstrates loose management of its quarantine facility by Vietnam Airlines," Binh said.

Under the health ministry’s directions, the facility on Hong Ha Street in Tan Binh District has been suspended.

go to top