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Ennis man in Vietnamese quarantine centre

A YOUNG Ennis man faces an uncertain few days as he waits to find out if he can leave a Vietnamese quarantine facility, where he has been kept for almost a fortnight.

Darragh Collins, from Shanaway Road in Ennis, has been teaching English in the country for the last two years. He attended St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Buddha Bar in Ho Chi Min which were deemed to be linked to a Coronavirus cluster. Days after the event, health authorities arrived at his apartment and took him on a quarantine bus to the Hoc Mon University campus, 17km away.

“People were quite agitated about the situation, especially on the way to the centre,” Darragh told The Champion. “I wasn’t tested until the second day. I feel fine and have tested negative, but the information is that we will be here for 14 days and may need a second negative test before we can leave.”

Darragh now faces an anxious wait as his quarantine period is due to end on Friday, but is keeping his hopes up of getting out of the facility by next Monday at the latest. In the meantime, he said securing accurate information is a big issue and that things are chaotic at times.

“There is a lot of confusion. There are 50 people on each floor and ten floors. A Brazilian guy in the room next to mine tested positive and I only knew because I saw people in hazmat suits coming to take him away to another floor. The staff who serve us food are saying one thing and then the health staff are saying another, so we don’t really know where we stand. Even the Vietnamese nationals that are here aren’t being given information.”

As for conditions at the centre, Darragh said that hygiene could be better and that conditions are leading to interaction with newcomers and the risk of contracting Coronavirus while in quarantine.

“It might not be a violation of our human rights, but the place does feel a bit like a prison,” he said. “I do keep in mind that others are in far worse situations, but the conditions here, overall, aren’t the best. We can’t move around much, but I’m lucky in that I’m in a room with two South African lads that I know from work.”

The Ennis native added that even if he is released from quarantine, he faces potential issues with paying for rent, now that he and fellow teachers have had their pay cut and jobs are at risk: “I could be left with no job and I would be concerned that if I have to leave, the last few flights out are leaving this week.”

After his role in supporting a young woman in Peru to return to Clare, Deputy Cathal Crowe has now pledged to help Darragh and has made contact with him in Vietnam. “I have found the Department of Foreign Affairs to be very good in these situations,” the Fianna Fáil member noted, “but I have found too that social media is a great way to form a network of Irish contacts for people in difficulty overseas. I have reached out to Darragh and will be providing both formal support and assistance from informal contacts that may be able to assist.”

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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