Deliberate infectors

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The virus scare is enveloping many communities across the country as the number of Covid-19 patients is rising rapidly, reaching 44, or a surge of 28 cases within just six days. The ultimate disease control measure being deployed in the country is to isolate those people confirmed as positive for the virus as well as those suspected of infection, the latter category comprising individuals coming from virus-hit regions or into close contact with the infected.

Needless to say, those measures must be adhered to so as to effectively contain the spread of the epidemic. However, as covered in local media, numerous people have managed to dodge isolation measures for their own convenience, posing huge risks to the community and putting the country’s campaign against the highly contagious disease under tenterhooks.

Apparently, they may not want to transmit the virus to others, but their intentions to defy disease control measures make them law breakers, or in a sense, deliberate infectors.

And those law-breaking instances are numerous, as reported in the past few days.

At a meeting on Monday, Hanoi City Chairman Nguyen Duc Chung warned that some passengers on Flight VN0054, with several of them confirmed to have the highly contagious virus, dropped by places though they were advised to self-isolate at home, according to Lao Dong. Meanwhile, authorities of Ba Ria City in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau last week forced a couple into an isolation center after they got away from isolation in Ha Nam Province, says the paper.

More specifically, the news site zing.vn reports how Vu Khac Tiep, a showbiz celebrity in HCMC, has defied in-home quarantine measures. Tiep returned to HCMC half a month ago after a tour to the Italian city of Milan, which is a coronavirus hotpot in Europe. He was told to self-isolate at home, but checks by grassroots health care authorities showed he did not conform.

“Health care workers and law enforcement agencies checked his apartment in District 2 twice, and he was nowhere to be found,” stated a physician in charge of disease control in the district. Tiep was then forced to enter a concentrated isolation center this Monday, but he has repeatedly defied measures enforced there, according to the news site.

An official at District 2 Medical Center says in Lao Dong that he has seen no one always protesting and defying isolation measures like Tiep. “It took up to three hours to convince and then to threaten him with coercive measures before authorities could take the man to the isolation center,” the official is quoted as saying in the paper.

Yesterday, relevant agencies of Nghe An Province stopped a bus carrying passengers with potential exposure to a suspected case of coronavirus infection, Nguoi Lao Dong reports. A 37-year-old man returned to Hanoi on Wednesday from one of Japan’s virus-hit regions, after developing symptoms including cough, shortness of breath and sore throat. Instead of presenting himself at a clinic, the man later got on a bus with 17 people including 15 passengers, and on the way to Nghe An, many passengers disembarked. After pulling the bus over, authorities then took seven remaining on the vehicle, including the driver and the assistant, to an isolation center.

In another notorious case, an entrepreneur in Quang Tri suspected of infection has used a trick to avoid isolation. The man managed to send one of his employees into the isolation center instead, but the dishonest act was uncovered by authorities who later forced the business executive to show up for isolation, according to Dan Tri.

Commenting on the incident, Lawyer Tran Ba Hoc of the HCMC Bar Association says in Tuoi Tre that in this case, both the businessman cheating health authorities by sending his subordinate to the isolation center, and the subordinate himself should be slapped with tough fines under Decree 176/2013/ND-CP.

Citing prevailing regulations, Lawyer Vo Dan Mach of the HCMC Bar Association says in Tuoi Tre anyone found dodging medical isolation measures should be fined VND5-10 million pursuant to Decree 176/2013/ND-CP of the Government, and can be subject to criminal prosecution if such people spread the disease to others due to their evasion of disease control measures. In addition, the offenders can be jailed for up to 12 years plus a fine of VND100 million.

Commenting on the second wave of coronavirus infections in Vietnam that began with Patient 17 confirmed last Friday, Thanh Nien says the case exposes a fearsome loophole in the fight against the contagious disease, which is the absence of awareness among many people. The young woman, a Hanoi resident who visited virus hotpots in Italy, made a false health declaration upon completing entry procedures, keeping immigration officials at Hanoi City’s Noi Bai Airport in the dark about her travel history.

No matter how painstakingly relevant agencies are taking efforts to keep the virus at bay, efficiency can only be achieved if all people adhere to the principles of isolation and health declaration set out in the campaign, says Thanh Nien. “The Government has taken aggressive measures to safeguard the country and the people from the virus, but the determination and commitment by the Government alone won’t suffice,” continues the paper.

As the epidemic is turning more complicated these days, self-isolation or concentrated quarantine is seen as the ultimate measure to ensure the safety and well-being of the community, which is a moral responsibility for each and every citizen to assume, according to Lao Dong.

In an editorial, the paper says Covid-19 patients are not criminals, so the law guarantees their rights not to have names or identities publicized. However, such rights should only apply to people who are put under treatment at a clinic, or those who conform to regulations on isolation. For those who do not cooperate with authorities, or who manage to avoid isolation, it is needed to have their names and identities publicized so that the community is aware of the danger of infection, says the paper.

“Cooperating with the authorities regarding isolation and treatment of Covid-19 should be the behavior of those with the conscience to keep in high esteem the benefits of the country and the community,” says Thanh Nien.

In an effort to get tough on those people defying quarantine measures, or making false statements on their health conditions and travel history, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc this week called on relevant agencies to hash out punitive sanctions. The Government leader ordered the Ministry of Justice to prepare new regulations with tough punishment against those deliberately making false statements or dodging compulsory quarantine.

While authorities and the entire society are taking efforts to contain the virus spread, it is unacceptable that there are people who disregard disease control measures, putting the community at risk, says Tuoi Tre. Isolation is the right safety measure that must be stringently enforced so as to cure the infected and to keep the community from risks of infection caused by deliberate infectors.

By Son Nguyen

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