Man in Vietnam Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Spreading Covid-19

A policeman hands back the travel permit to a commuter after checking at
a street checkpoint in Vung Tau, Vietnam on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. (Photo: Hau Dinh, AP)

A man in Vietnam has been sentenced to five years in prison after he broke strict covid-19 quarantine rules in the country, contracting the disease in a large city and bringing it back to his rural hometown. The man’s actions have been linked to eight illnesses and one death from covid-19.

Le Van Tri, a 28-year-old man from the province of Ca Mau, was convicted this week of “spreading dangerous infectious diseases,” according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency and Australia’s ABC News.

Tri reportedly travelled by motorcycle to Ho Chi Minh City and back to Ca Mau in early July against Vietnam’s strict coronavirus rules. Anyone travelling between regions is supposed to self-quarantine for 21 days, something Tri failed to do. Tri also reportedly lied to authorities when they asked about his travel history.

Ca Mau has reported just 191 cases of covid-19 and two deaths from the disease since the pandemic began, making Tri’s actions all the more egregious. Tri was fined roughly $US880 ($1,183) in addition to his five year prison sentence, according to Yahoo News.

Until recently, Vietnam had done relatively well during the pandemic with an extremely low case count and minuscule death rate, largely credited to robust public health measures. Vietnam was reporting new cases in the single-digits each day throughout most of 2020 and 2021 and largely controlled regional outbreaks thanks to mass testing and contact tracing.

Unfortunately, cases started to creep up in Ho Chi Minh City in late May 2021 and the country hasn’t been able to get its most recent outbreak under control. Vietnam recorded 12,481 new cases and 311 new deaths on Monday alone. The country has now recorded over 537,000 cases and 13,385 deaths since the pandemic began.

While Vietnam was previously among a small handful of countries pursuing a so-called covid-zero strategy, the government recently abandoned that strategy and has said it will try to “live with the virus.” But government officials warn it will not lift covid-19 restrictions any sooner than September 15, as it tries to ramp up vaccination efforts. Ho Chi Minh City has been in strict lockdown since August 23 and has reported over 241,000 since May, according to Viet Nam News.

Vietnam, a country of 97 million people, has been slow with its vaccine rollout, just as so many other low-income countries have struggled with securing enough vaccines. Only 2.8% of Vietnam’s population is fully vaccinated, though the government has ramped up efforts to vaccinate the most hard-hit city of Ho Chi Minh City in recent weeks.