Virus-free UK pilot, symbol of Vietnam's pandemic success, to return home


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HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s most seriously ill COVID-19 patient, a British pilot who at one point seemed close to death, left hospital on Saturday on his way home after a dramatic recovery that attracted national attention.

The case of Stephen Cameron, a pilot for national carrier Vietnam Airlines, became a sensation in Vietnam, where a combination of targeted testing and an aggressive quarantine programme has kept its coronavirus tally to an impressively low 370 cases, and zero deaths.

“The odds say that I shouldn’t be here, so I can only thank everybody here for what they’ve done,” Cameron said, leaving hospital in a wheelchair and flanked by doctors holding flowers.

The 43-year-old Scot, who arrived in the Southeast Asian country from Britain in early March, was hospitalised three days after his first flight for Vietnam Airlines, following a visit to a bar in Ho Chi Minh City that became linked to a cluster of coronavirus cases.

Cameron’s illness and the highly publicised efforts of Vietnam’s doctors to save him became a symbol in Vietnam of the country’s successful fight against the virus.

At one point, medical officials said Cameron, initially identified only as “Patient 91”, had just 10% of his lung capacity and was in critical condition.

With the vast majority of Vietnam’s COVID-19 patients already recovered, the news of a potential first death prompted a national outpouring of support, with dozens of people coming forward as potential lung donors.

State doctors turned the volunteers down, saying donated lungs should come from brain-dead donors.

But under round-the clock care, Cameron improved. By June he no longer required a lung transplant and was taken off life support.

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Vietnam spent over $200,000 treating him. Vietnamese doctors will accompany Cameron on the special flight back to Britain, state media said.

“As soon as I get fit, I’m coming back,” said Cameron. “I’m still a pilot – my license has lapsed, that’s all.”

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