After days of anxious waiting, Bui Dang Khoa finally made it back to Vietnam on a special flight that brought 219 Vietnamese workers home from Equatorial Guinea.
Vietnam Airlines flight VN6 brings 219 Vietnamese citizens home from Equatorial Guinea (Photo: VNA)
On the road to airport in Bata, the largest city in the African country, the 23-year-old cook reunited with workmates he had not seen since entering quarantine several weeks ago due to COVID-19. They worked together at the Sendje hydropower project.
Placed in an area for workers who have tested negative for COVID-19, Khoa and other workers of this group fell into a deep, peaceful slumber after long days of concern.
Onboard the Vietnam Airlines Airbus 350, flight attendants and healthcare staff went about their business with special care.
In early July, after learning about the spread of the coronavirus among Vietnamese workers at the Sendje hydropower project, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs asked the Foreign Ministry and the Vietnamese Embassy in Angola and Equatorial Guinea as well as the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control to support businesses to bring the workers home.
It also directed three companies managing Vietnamese workers to coordinate with the major contractor of the project to suspend work at the site.
The ministry asked that guidelines on preventive measures against the pandemic be given to the workers, along with solutions to ensure hygiene in their accommodation, nutritious meals, and that their rights and interest be protected.
Recognising that the pandemic was spreading seriously with a high rate of infection and getting beyond the control of companies, the ministry proposed to the Prime Minister the organisation of a flight to bring all the workers home.
The flight was to protect the legitimate rights and interest of the workers and manifest the humanitarian policy of the Party and State.
Shortly afterward, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc requested an immediate flight to evacuate the Vietnamese citizens from Equatorial Guinea and asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ambassadors, and Vietnamese representative offices abroad to do their best to care for all Vietnamese citizens abroad.
His direction received a prompt response from sectors and agencies. Various meetings were convened to identify how to arrange the flight, along with measures to ensure flight safety, epidemiological hygiene, flight procedures, and support for the passengers throughout the flight.
Though dozens of flights have been conducted bringing Vietnamese citizens home from different points around the globe, this is the first time Vietnam has had to deal with a large number of infections itself at the same time, requiring particularly thorough preparations.
It was less than three weeks since the Prime Minister requested the flight when it landed at Noi Bai International Airport in Ha Noi, arranged at a lightning speed in a spirit of “no one left behind”. The “miracle” flight manifested the country’s collective strength being mobilised through difficulties and challenges. Leaving no one behind and putting life at the top priority have become key in the Vietnamese Government’s disease prevention and control efforts.
For Khoa and more than 200 other workers from the Sendje hydropower project, the past month has been an unforgettable roller coaster of emotions: anxiety, hope, and then joy and happiness.
Talking over the phone with a Vietnam News Agency (VNA) correspondent in Africa, the young man from Huong Son commune in Ha Noi’s My Duc district recalled that many workers who had been quarantined in Equatorial Guinea could not hold back their tears when they heard that the Government of their motherland was arranging a flight to bring them home. Many workers in Equatorial Guinea have updated VNA correspondents in the region on the situation.
Before boarding, on behalf of the workers and through VNA, Khoa said he wants to send his thanks to the Vietnamese Government and relevant agencies for arranging the flight. He and the workers chanted “I am Vietnamese” at the airport.
When the announcement came that the plane was about to land, through a window, Khoa saw green patchwork fields with rivers and small villages. Such emotional images have stayed with him over the last few days.
He understood that he and his workmates could not be welcomed with hugs and flowers from parents and relatives due to quarantine regulations. But there was one thing he knew for sure: his homeland is warmly welcoming his workmates and him back to Vietnam.