On March 30, 2020, the Supreme People’s Court (hereinafter, SPC) issued Official Letter No. 45/TANDTC-PC on the trial of crimes related to COVID19 and its prevention and control period (“PCP”)The SPC Judges’ Council has provided guidance for the People’s Courts and the Military Courts at all levels to organize trials on instances of violationwhich constitute crimes related to the COVID-19 PCP in accordance with the Criminal Code 2015, as follows: 

  1. A person who has been informed of an illness, suspected of being infected or returned from an infected area of ​​COVID-19 which has been quarantined, committing one of the following acts causing the spreading of COVID-19 to others shall be charged for the crime of spreading dangerous infectious diseases to humans according to Article 240, Clause 1(c): 
  • Escaping from a quarantine place; 
  • Not complying with the quarantine regulations; 
  • Refusing and evading the application of quarantine measures; 
  • Not performing medical reports, or performing them insufficiently or fraudulently. 
  1. A person who has not been identified as inspected for COVID-19, but lives in a designated quarantined or lockdown area who commits one of the following acts that causes damages of VND 100,000,000 or more due to expenses incurred for disease during the PCP  shall be charged for the crime of “violations against regulations of law on safety in crowded areas according to Article 295:  
  • Escaping from a quarantine place; 
  • Not complying with the quarantine regulations; 
  • Refusing and evading the application of quarantine measures; 
  • Not performing medical reports, or performing them insufficiently or fraudulently. 
  1. Owners and managers of business establishments who conduct business activities during the period of suspension of business activities to prevent and control COVID-19, as decided by the competent agencies, or persons causing damages of VND 100,000,000 or more, shall be charged for the crime of “violations against regulations of law on safety in crowded areas” according to Article 295.     
  2. A person who commits acts of putting false or misrepresented information on computer networks or telecommunication networks about the situation of the COVID-19 causing bad public opinion shall be charged for the crime of “illegal provision or use of information on computer networks or telecommunications networks” according to Article 288.  
  3. A person who commits acts of illegally giving personal information and personal secrets that seriously offend the dignity and honor of healthy employees, participants in the PCP of COVID-19, people infected and suspected of COVID-19 shall be charged for the crime of “insult to another person” according to Article 155.   
  4. A person who commits acts of taking advantage of COVID-19 by providing untruthful information on the use of drugs or medical supplies on disease during the PCP in order to appropriate other persons’ property shall be charged for the crime of “appropriating property by fraud according to Article 174. 
  5. A person who committed acts for purpose of illegally bring medicine and medical supplies used in the prevention and control period of the COVID-19 out of Vietnam’s borders to earn illicit profits shall be handle for the crime “smuggling” according to Article 188. 
  6. A person who takes advantage of the scarcity or fakes scarcity during COVID-19 prevention and control period to buy in large quantities and stockpile goods from a price stabilization program or goods priced by the State in order to earn illegal shall be handle for the crime of “hoarding” according to Article 196. 
  7. A person who uses violence, the threat of violence or otherwise to obstruct a law enforcement officer during the COVID-19PCP shall be charged for the crime of resisting a law enforcement officer” according to Article 330. 
  8. A person who is responsible for the COVID-19 PCP who fails to deploy or be deployed in timeor be deployed with inadequate measures to prevent and control COVID-19 according to the regulations which cause serious consequences shall be charged for the crime of “negligence that results in serious consequences” according to Article 360. 

In addition, the SPC has emphasized the need to impose strict penalties for crimes causing serious consequences (e.g. spreading the disease to two or more people, causing death, …). The principal penalty is the imposition of fineas well as a non-custodial sentence or imprisonment. However, a suspended sentence is allowed for a crime which has not yet caused consequences, or has caused less serious consequences (e.g. not spreading the disease).  

Recently, there have been many cases of violating the above regulations that could be brought to trial at the competent courtsWhereasPatient No. 17 in Hanoi, after returning from an epidemic area did not make medical declaration and also evaded quarantine measures, or Patient No. 34 in Binh Thuan, who made dishonest medical declaration when being identified as suspected as having COVID-19. Accordingly, both instances have enough elements to constitute the crime of “spreading dangerous infectious diseases to humans”. Depending on the extent of the damage, or the ability to spread disease, offenders may be subject to different penalty frames including:  

(i) a fine of between VND 50,000,000 and VND 200,000,000 or, imprisonment from 1 year to 5 years;  

(ii) imprisonment from 5 years to 10 years;  

(iii) imprisonment from 10 years to 12 years.

In fact, the crimes committed by Patients No. 17 and No. 34 have not resulted in the death or the announcement of an epidemic, thus they may be charged according to the above penalty guideline (i) and other strict penalties for spreading the disease to two or more people. 

Therefore, the SPC has decided to bring cases related to the COVID-19 PCP to trial to warn and deter offenders.  It is necessary decision in the current epidemic situation to strengthen and educate public awareness about the COVID PCP

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