Vo Thi, a friend of mine from college, and his wife took a repatriation flight from Kuala Lumpur to Danang. On arriving at Danang International Airport, after check-in procedures were completed, they were sent to a military-run quarantine center at nearly 1 a.m. on Monday, May 11.
The couple and more than 270 other passengers on this non-stop two-hour-and-45-minute flight will be isolated for 14 days.
Thi told me on Facebook Messenger, “Coming back home is really a pleasure!” He added, “Coming back home also means our anxiety is somewhat reduced.”
Thi and his wife often travel abroad. More than three months ago, they were in Singapore, Lankawi and Kuala Lumpur, mostly acting as real estate prospectors. When the world went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they were forced to remain in place until the evening of May 10.
When asked about their experience eating and sleeping at the quarantine center in Danang, he said, “(The food) is delicious. (There was) rice, soup, stir-fries, a dish of meat and another one with fish.” Each person in quarantine pays only VND57,000 (roughly US$2.5) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bed is free.
Sleeping is a problem though. Thi noted, “We were living in a 4-star apartment in Kuala Lumpur, and now we’re in a military facility with bunk beds. We’re not used to that. It’s better than staying confined in an apartment in Kuala Lumpur.”
Thi also confirmed that standard procedures were being followed at the center.
For the tickets, he said each passenger on his flight had paid US$220, and the tickets were bought at the Vietnam Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, which was very friendly and thoughtful throughout the process.
This repatriation flight was, according to the Vietnam Airlines news website, for Vietnamese only. Children under the age of 18, senior citizens, sick people, students who have no accommodation due to school and dormitory closures and workers with expired visas and labor contracts were on the flight. Vietnamese tourists who were stranded due to the Covid-19 pandemic were also allowed to board.
A few days earlier, Vietnam Airlines also provided repatriation flights from North America. The flight to San Francisco was the first time a Vietnamese airline had flown directly to the United States, without flying in partnership with a foreign airline.
That flight was scheduled for May 1 but was delayed until May 7 due to lengthy procedures that had to be completed first. A second flight from Vietnam Airlines to Washington was also scheduled for May 15.
Thi confirmed that he did not know when he and his wife would be able to fly to HCMC as they have to be tested a few more times, along with the others in quarantine. If one of them tests positive, the others will have to remain in quarantine.
By Ngoc Tran