No quarantine needed when int'l flights resume, experts suggest

 No quarantine needed when int'l flights resume, experts suggest

Foreigners wait to check in at Da Nang Airport in central Vietnam, March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Experts are suggesting that the government follows countries in the region and lift mandatory quarantine rule for international passengers as the country prepares to reopen regular flights from next month.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh had informed Japanese business leaders that Vietnam plans to reopen international flights early December, including routes to and from Japan, one of Vietnam's biggest feeder tourism markets.

If the plan is implemented, the resumption of regular international flights will take place one month earlier than a proposal by the Ministry of Transport.

The ministry had proposed that international commercial flight are resumed from January to 15 countries and territories with high Covid-19 vaccination rates, including Asian economies like Japan, South Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore.

Under its plan, fully vaccinated passengers would have to undergo a seven-day quarantine at paid facilities upon arrival.

Bui Doan Ne, general secretary of the Vietnam Aviation Business Association (VABA), said Vietnam should consider removing the quarantine rule for passengers who have been fully vaccinated in the first phase of reopening regular international flights.

"The seven-day quarantine requirement will prevent international passengers from flying as no one wants to come to Vietnam to stay for a week in a hotel," Ne said.

Vietnam has committed to accepting "vaccine passports" of many countries and territories where the pandemic situation is under control, not imposing centralized quarantine requirement on arrivals from these countries.

It is necessary to apply the same policy for passengers from key markets of aviation and tourism, he argued.

According to the Foreign Ministry, 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.

Nguyen Huy Nga, a former head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, said fully vaccinated passengers don’t need to undergo a seven-day quarantine on arrival.

Nga said the reopening of international flights is now an urgent issue as other countries around the world have reopened their borders and resumed commercial flights with relaxed quarantine requirements.

For example, Thailand currently exempts mandatory quarantine for foreign tourists with a vaccine passport from over 60 countries and territories, including Vietnam, and only requires them to furnish a negative Covid test result before departure. Foreign tourists arriving in Thailand only stay one night at their hotel. If their PCR tests show a negative PCR result, they can travel freely.

Singapore currently exempts mandatory quarantine for tourists from many Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam.

Medical capacity

However, Nga also proposed that the government ensures medical infrastructure and treatment capacity when reopening international flights.

"We should be concerned if foreign passengers are found infected with Covid-19 upon arriving in Vietnam, how we would treat them and how much should be paid for treatment."

Thailand has stipulated that foreign tourists have to furnish medical or travel insurance including coverage for Covid-19 treatment worth at least $50,000 upon arrival; while Singapore requires insurance of up to $100,000.

Vo Huy Cuong, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, said aviation authorities will closely monitor Thailand's experience in reopening aviation and tourism.

"In the future, based on practical experience, aviation authorities will propose that government exempts mandatory quarantine for those having received two doses of a Covid vaccine or having recovered from the disease," Cuong said.

Kien Giang, Khanh Hoa and Quang Nam, home to many tourist hotspots, have begun welcoming the first groups of foreign tourists under a trial vaccine passport program since last week.

Dozens of other flights are expected to bring in thousands of foreign tourists to the country by the end of this year.

Vietnam 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, investors and highly-skilled workers.

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