A patient of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ho Chi Minh City had been to a local mosque for prayers five times a day, adding up to over 60 times in total, between his return to Vietnam from Malaysia and his diagnosis, raising questions on how competent authorities could have missed such a serious case.
Patient No. 100, a 55-year-old man residing in District 8, previously traveled from Malaysia to Vietnam aboard the AirAsia flight AK524 on March 3.
Between March 4 and 17, the man attended religious services five times daily at Jamiul Anwar Mosque at 157B/9 Duong Ba Trac, Ward 1, District 8, Ho Chi Minh City.
District 8’s medical center sampled him on March 18 although he showed no symptoms as the man was found to have joined a crowded mosque event in Kuala Lumpur during his Malaysia trip.
About 970 of Malaysia’s total cases are linked to the religious gathering last month, Reuters quoted the Malaysian health ministry as saying.
His result came back positive for the novel coronavirus on Sunday.
The case is related to patient No. 61 in the south-central province of Ninh Thuan, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 16 after attending the same religious event in Malaysia.
After patient No. 61 was confirmed, the anti-epidemic unit of District 8 launched a search for other attendees on the same day and were able to identify five people, said Nguyen Nha Kha, chief of office of the District 8 People’s Committee.
Patient No. 100 was not among them, Kha added.
A complete list of attendees was submitted on March 17 and this time did include patient No. 100, Kha continued, adding that all of them were promptly tested for the virus.
“There had been no direction from higher authorities telling us to search for the attendees of Malaysia's religious event prior to March 16,” the official elaborated.
“Malaysia had not declared its COVID-19 epidemic when patient No. 100 returned to Ho Chi Minh City,” he added, explaining why the man was not placed in a quarantine facility after arrival.
Before Vietnam began enforcing compulsory 14-day isolation on all arrivals from foreign countries from last weekend, the country only mandated the quarantine for those traveling from places where there is a major COVID-19 outbreak.
Other arrivals, including patient No. 100, were asked to self-quarantine at home.
The man continued to attend daily prayers at the local mosque despite the self-isolation request, reports Cong An (Public Security), the mouthpiece of Ho Chi Minh City’s police bureau.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Community of Ho Chi Minh City stated it was told by the Government Committee for Religious Affairs (GCRA) on March 12 to identify all people in the southern metropolis who had participated in the event in Malaysia.
Tracking the attendees was quite a difficult task as most of them traveled individually, the Islamic Community remarked.
Patient No. 100 was identified as one of the participants on March 14 but it was not until March 16 that a complete list of 34 Ho Chi Minh City citizens who went to this event was submitted to the GCRA.
Six other people were recently added to this list, the Islamic Community added.
The novel coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, has infected over 421,000 and killed more than 18,800 globally as of Wednesday morning, according to Ministry of Health statistics.
Vietnam has confirmed 134 COVID-19 cases, with 17 having already been discharged from the hospital.
Statistics from The Star newspaper showed that Malaysia has had over 1,600 patients.
The country had only reported 50 cases as of March 4.
In Vietnam, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on March 17 that people arriving from ASEAS nations, the U.S., and European countries would be sent to quarantine camps.
From March 21, all incoming travelers to Vietnam would be isolated for 14 days as part of more assertive measures to curb the epidemic.