Without job in Myanmar, Covid-19-infected man pays $2,155 to illegally return to Vietnam

By Cuu Long    December 30, 2020 | 05:00 pm PT
Without job in Myanmar, Covid-19-infected man pays $2,155 to illegally return to Vietnam
Border guards in An Giang Province with a sniffer dog patrol around the border area with Cambodia, August 2020. Photo by VnExpress/An Phu.
A man from Vinh Long Province, who illegally entered Vietnam and was diagnosed with Covid-19, reportedly paid VND50 million ($2,155) to a people smuggling gang to return home.

The 32-year-old, one of six people who illegally entered from Cambodia through An Giang Province on December 24, tested positive for the coronavirus two days later, but had been "anxious and worried the gang would hurt his family if he revealed its operations to local authorities," his mother Tran Thi Hang said via phone from a quarantine facility in Mang Thit District.

Ignoring all fears, Hang advised her son to clearly declare his travel history to local authorities so that they prevent risk of further Covid-19 outbreak of community transmission; otherwise everything would be very dangerous.

The man had gone to Myanmar illegally to work, but the pandemic caused his company to suspend operations, and he did not have a job.

To return home, he contacted the people smuggling gang via social media and was asked for VND50 million, to be paid online.

Hang said he called home and asked his family to transfer VND37 million to the gang's account.

On December 22 Hang went to HCMC but only transferred VND25 million into an unidentified woman's account.

The next day her son called and said he had been abandoned at the edge of a forest on the Thai border since the full amount was not sent.

Her daughter immediately transferred the remaining VND12 million owed to the gang.

He and five others, all Vietnamese nationals, had traveled from Myanmar to Thailand by truck on December 15 and stayed there until December 22 before leaving for Cambodia on December 23.

On December 24 they crossed into Vietnam by boat across Binh Di River and were picked up in a car. He returned home in Vinh Long Province while the other 32-year-old woman moved to Dong Thap Province and the remaining to HCMC. Four of six have been confirmed infected with the novel coronavirus.

"He was in close contact with me for 30 minutes upon returning home. I found him showing abnormal signs and he looked pale, scared and worried," Hang recalled.

Fearing that her son contracted the virus when traveling illegally through many countries, she immediately reported to local authorities.

He was then sent to a quarantine facility at Mang Thit District's medical center and had his samples taken for Covid-19 test. On December 26, his test result showed he was positive for the virus and he was transferred to Vinh Long Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases Hospital for treatment.

Doctor Van Cong Minh, director of Vinh Long's Department of Health, said "patient 1440" is now in stable condition and he didn't show signs of cough and fever. His psychology was also better and he was no longer panic and anxious as before.

Hang and 14 others in close contact with the man are being quarantined and have not yet showed signs of contracting the virus.

Colonel Huynh Thanh Mong, deputy director of Vinh Long Provincial Police, said that police are working to clarify the illegal crossing ring as the case involves many localities. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the case.

So far this year, over 14,000 people have illegally entered the country, the Ministry of Public Security said, adding that the rising number of illegal entrants is posing a major threat to the country's anti-Covid-19 fight.

Vietnam has a land border of more than 5,000 km, 117 land border gates and 88 border crossings that border China, Laos and Cambodia.

Vietnam’s current Covid-19 tally stands at 1,456 and 35 deaths.

It has gone 28 days without community transmissions. Authorities have taken drastic measures to trace all those who’ve come into close contact with the illegal entrants who’ve made up the latest Covid-19 cases.

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