Cut quarantine period for international passengers, experts suggest
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Foreigners arrive at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ba Do
Aviation and medical experts say the seven-day quarantine for foreign passengers entering Vietnam on commercial flights is too long and being over cautious would hinder tourism revival.
The Ministry of Transport is seeking approval from the government to resume international commercial flights from next January to 15 countries and territories that have high Covid-19 vaccination rates. Under its plan, fully vaccinated passengers would have to undergo seven-day quarantine at paid facilities upon arrival.
At a Wednesday seminar on resuming international flights, Vo Huy Cuong, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, said that the Ministry of Health has stipulated that foreign passengers who have been fully vaccinated need to be isolated for seven days upon entering the country; therefore, aviation authorities have developed an international flight resumption plan based on this guideline.
However, Cuong proposed shortening the quarantine period to three days or having passengers stay at designated hotels just one day and allowing them to travel freely if they test negative for the novel coronavirus.
"We need to study the shortening of the quarantine period for foreign passengers so that Vietnam does not miss an opportunity in the race to reopen international tourism and becomes an attractive destination," he said.
Nguyen Huy Nga, a former head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, said the seven-day quarantine period for fully vaccinated foreign passengers "is too cautious" compared to regional countries and that it would hinder the revival of tourism in the country.
He also proposed that the seven-day quarantine rule be shortened as neighboring countries have reopened their doors to foreign tourists and had more relaxed quarantine and medical regulations.
For example, Thailand currently exempts mandatory quarantine for foreign tourists with a vaccine passport and only requires them to furnish a negative Covid test result before departure.
Nguyen Quang Trung, a representative of national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, also proposed quarantine exemption for fully vaccinated passengers arriving from countries and territories with good pandemic control and high vaccination rate or shortening the quarantine period to just one day.
Only Vietnamese repatriates who need to return home would accept the current quarantine regulations, he said, adding that to attract international tourists to Vietnam, the current rule should be changed.
Cuong said as the country has shifted from a strategy of targeting zero Covid cases to living safely with the virus, the reopening of international flights was necessary to revive tourism, investment and trade.
With increasing vaccination rate and high testing capability, there is no need to worry about overloading the local healthcare system when welcoming back foreign tourists, he said.
Kien Giang, Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang and Quang Ninh, home to a many tourist hotspots, have got the green light to welcome foreign tourists from this month on as part of a roadmap to gradually resume international tourism.
Vietnam currently accepts Covid-19 vaccine passports issued by 72 countries and territories, and is discussing the issue with 80 others. The U.S., the U.K., Japan, and Belarus have accepted Vietnam's vaccine passport.
The country had closed its doors to foreign tourists and grounded international flights in March 2020, and has since allowed entry only to Vietnamese repatriates and foreign experts and highly-skilled workers.