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Vietnam weighs up repatriation of British COVID-19 patient in critical condition

Friday, May 22, 2020, 16:01 GMT+7
Vietnam weighs up repatriation of British COVID-19 patient in critical condition
Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the Agency of Health Examination and Treatment under the Ministry of Health, speaks to the press on May 21, 2020. Photo: Thuy Anh / Tuoi Tre

Vietnamese authorities are considering the possibility of repatriating a 43-year-old British pilot who has been cleared of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but still relies on life support.

Doctors warn his lungs are still severely damaged.

The Briton has tested negative for the novel coronavirus six times in the past 10 days, a strong indicator he has recovered from the disease, Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the Agency of Health Examination and Treatment under the Ministry of Health, said on Thursday.

Doctors at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, where he received his treatment, believe he is unlikely to relapse, Khue continued.

The patient’s lung capacity has increased to 30 percent, a massive gain compared to 10 percent last week.

Despite the improvement, he is still fully dependent on life support in the form of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which he has been on for the past 47 days.

A lung transplant is the only way he will be able to live without life support, though experts warn he may also need kidney transplantation.

The British patient was transferred to Cho Ray, the largest general hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, on Thursday for further care.

His lung transplant will also be carried out at Cho Ray when a suitable donor is found.

While many people have volunteered to donate parts of their lungs, doctors still prioritize seeking a brain-dead registered donor.

The health ministry is facing several legal issues regarding the surgical procedure as it has not been able to contact his close family members, namely a parent, spouse, or child, according to Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper.

Vietnamese authorities have so far only been able to contact a distant relative in the UK.

Aside from the lung transplant, the health ministry is mulling over bringing the Briton back to his home country.

However, this would only be possible if his health condition improves.

“Several foreign clinics in Hanoi have offered to sponsor the repatriation of the British national,” Khue stated.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Vietnam stands at 324, with 266 having recovered, according to the health ministry's statistics. No deaths from the disease have been reported.

No new infections in the community have been documented in the Southeast Asian country in the past 36 days.

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