The central Vietnamese province of Quang Nam’s decision to charge people returning from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for their quarantine over the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is drawing mixed opinions.
Nguyen Van Hai, director of Quang Nam Department of Health and spokesperson for the provincial steering committee for COVID-19 prevention and control, had a discussion with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Friday regarding the issue.
According to Hai, 340 local people had entered the province between April 1, when the country began 15 days of social distancing, and Friday morning.
The social distancing advisory, as per a directive issued by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Tuesday, calls on residents to limit traveling and going outdoors unless under absolutely necessary circumstances, such as to buy food and medicine.
“Households are advised to keep a distance from households, villages from villages, communes from communes, districts from districts, and provinces from provinces,” the directive reads.
Four-wheeled commercial passenger vehicles are also banned while only a handful of daily passenger flights and trains are allowed to remain in operation.
Hai said most of those entering the province since the social distancing began are returnees from Ho Chi Minh City.
They have been placed under centralized quarantine and sampled for COVID-19 testing as the city and Hanoi have been determined as Vietnam’s epicenters that have witnessed community spread of the disease.
Meanwhile, returnees from localities other than these two cities are only required to complete health declaration and undergo isolation at home.
Hai said the measure is meant for protecting local people’s health and avoiding possible cross-infection.
According to the provincial health director, people who returned to the province after April 1 had disobeyed the Prime Minister’s directive.
Hai alleged these people of breaking the provisions in Vietnam’s Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, Law on Handling of Administrative Violations, and the Penal Code by traveling to the province from COVID-19-affected areas.
The health department director hence concluded that these people can be regarded as “violators.”
|Nguyen Van Hai, director of the Department of Health in Quang Nam Province, is pictured on April 3, 2020. Photo: Le Trung / Tuoi Tre|
However, he said the province had decided to take a “humanitarian” approach by not punishing the 340 people, but to only charge them for healthcare, testing, food and drink during their quarantine.
Their accommodation remains free of charge during the period.
He added that the provincial People’s Committee will make a detailed proposal of the charges for approval by its People’s Council before implementing them.
“The [province’s] budget also has its limit while the disease situation remains unpredictable,” Hai said, adding that spending provincial budget to cover the new returnees’ quarantine expenses will set a bad example and encourage others to continue disregarding the social distancing advisory to return to their hometown from big cities.
“It is important for people to respond to and comply well [with the government’s directive] for the purpose of preventing and fighting the epidemic,” he said.
Quang Nam has reported three cases of COVID-19 infections so far.
Nationwide, there have been 239 cases confirmed, with 86 having recovered and been discharged from the hospital.
No death related to the disease has been recorded in Vietnam.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc declared COVID-19 a nationwide infectious disease pandemic on Wednesday.