Vietnam welcomes first foreign tourists in nearly 20 months

November 16


THE first international tourists touched down in Vietnam almost 20 months after the Southeast Asian nation closed its borders to contain the coronavirus.


Two charter flights brought more than 400 South Korean and Japanese fully vaccinated passengers from Seoul and Tokyo on 11 November to the southern resort city of Nha Trang, state media reported.


The area is popular with golfers, beach lovers and scuba divers, and boasts luxury hotels.


The flights came ahead of Vietnam’s plans to reopen the resort island of Phu Quoc to vaccinated foreign visitors on 20 November — with hopes to welcome at least 5,000 travellers in coming months.


Foreign tourists seeking to enter Vietnam must show Covid-19 vaccination certificates and negative pre-departure coronavirus test results.


The communist country is desperate to revive its badly hit economy after months of lockdowns.


Its borders have been shut to international visitors since March last year and there are almost no commercial flights entering the country.


Vietnam was widely praised for its handling of the pandemic last year, with only dozens of known coronavirus cases.


Vietnam had succeeded in keeping the virus under control for over a year with aggressive contact tracing and quarantine procedures but has been hit hard by the highly contagious Delta variant, which brought in the fourth wave of the outbreak since late April.


As many as 995,903 community cases have been registered in the ongoing wave, which has just been put under relative control for weeks. With its fast spread, the Delta variant has created a major public health emergency for the Southeast Asia country.


“The quickly escalating outbreaks within a short period of time have overloaded the medical system and increased death rates, especially in Ho Chi Minh City and some southern localities,” the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control said in a recent report, adding that Vietnam’s high population density and vaccine shortage have added to the troubles.


During the deadliest weeks of the wave, between 300 and 400 deaths were reported per day.


Major socio-economic activities in Vietnam, especially southern cities, were halted for several months, or at least being disrupted from time to time. COVID-19 restrictions, typically the stay-home ruling, have caused both material and mental hardships for people.


In late October, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said the country’s GDP growth this year may fall far below the 6-per-cent target with between 3-3.5 per cent. In the first nine months, Vietnam reported a GDP growth of 1.42 per cent due to fallout of the raging COVID-19 wave.


As such, bringing the country to the new normal as soon as possible in 2021 is a mission that the government of Vietnam has tasked itself with after COVID-19 paralyzed its economy for months.


Under the government’s resolution on “Safe, Flexible and Effective Control of COVID-19 outbreak” adopted on 11 October, Vietnam seeks to protect people’s lives, mitigate fatalities, and map out recovery plans in pursuit of the goal of containing the virus while developing the economy.


The resolution also categorized virus risks into four levels from low to very high, a basis for respective levels of socio-economic opening and public health measures to be applied.


So far, around 32 per cent of people have been fully vaccinated. SOURCE: AFP /Xinhua