Vietnam sends virus-free UK pilot home

Vietnamese doctors will accompany Stephen Cameron on the flight back to the United Kingdom.
Vietnamese doctors will accompany Stephen Cameron on the flight back to the United Kingdom.

Vietnam's most seriously ill COVID-19 patient, a British pilot who at one point seemed close to death, has left hospital 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 program 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 on Saturday, 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 per cent 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.

Vietnam spent over $US200,000 ($A290,000) 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 licence has lapsed, that's all."

Australian Associated Press