The Politburo has ordered relevant agencies to pilot Covid-19 vaccine passports so that foreigners can visit tourist destinations that have controlled the pandemic, such as Phu Quoc Island in Kien Giang Province.
Following the politburo’s direction, the prime minister has instructed the Ministry of Health to work with relevant organizations to launch such a trial.
To implement this policy, tourism experts believe that 90 percent of the estimated 180,000 people on the island, including foreigners and migrant workers, must be vaccinated against Covid-19. International tourists wishing to visit the island must have a vaccination certificate (or vaccine passport) and negative PCR test results. Temporary soft isolation measures between Phu Quoc and the mainland should be applied.
Nguyen Quy Phuong, Director of the Travel Department of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said that Phu Quoc is a good place for Vietnam to open door to foreign visitors, given its relatively small population and distance from the mainland.
The authorities of Kien Giang Province said that they would propose that the government vaccinate all Phu Quoc residents. Kien Giang’s Chairman Lam Minh Thanh said the island expected to welcome the first foreign tourists in September or early October. Nearly 1,500 people in Phu Quoc were vaccinated against Covid-19 in the first phase of the inoculation drive, from May 2-4.
Sharp tourism decline
According to a report by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, due to Covid-19, Vietnam attracted only 3.7 million foreign visitors in 2020 (down 79.5 percent compared to 2019) and 56 million domestic tourists (down 34.1 percent), earning total revenue of VND312 trillion, 58 percent or US$19 billion less than 2019.
Vietnam closed its borders and canceled all international flights in March last year. Only Vietnamese repatriates, foreign experts, diplomats, investors, and highly-skilled workers have been allowed since then with stringent quarantine requirements. About 40-60 percent of workers in the tourism industry lost their jobs or had less working days.
Tourism business representatives believe that vaccine passports will greatly help tourism recovery. VietSense Travel Director Nguyen Van Tai said opening the door to foreign visitors will benefit airlines, transportation firms, accommodation and restaurant businesses, among others. Director of Vietfoot Travel Pham Duy Nghia said the sooner vaccine passports are applied, the faster the tourism industry will recover.
Lux Group CEO Pham Ha said it is necessary to vaccinate everyone especially those working in the tourism industry, and foreign visitors with vaccine passports should be welcomed. Doan Thi Thanh Tra, Director of Marketing and Communication of Saigontourist, said Vietnam should implement a vaccine passport policy step by step and begin with countries that have been highly rated in terms of pandemic control efficiency.
Ha Long Bay trial
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is preparing for vaccine passport application. Vietnam is expected to welcome visitors from countries that have controlled the pandemic and have achieved herd immunity thanks to their vaccination programs. These will be able to visit tourist sites and resorts designated for their ability to control the flow of tourist traffic well and be able to manage guests’ itineraries efficiently and safely.
Vietnam will trial its vaccine passport program in July in the northern province of Quang Ninh, with vaccinated or recovered foreign entrants required to quarantine for seven days.
The decision was recently issued by Deputy Health Minister Do Xuan Tuyen, allowing foreign entrants who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19, and test negative for the coronavirus upon arrival, to undergo a seven-day centralized quarantine period instead of the usual 21 days.
They will have to take another seven days in self-isolation.
Quang Ninh is home to Van Don International Airport and the world-famous Ha Long Bay.
The vaccines accepted under the program are those which have been approved by either the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or Vietnam. The final shot must have been given between 14 days and 12 months prior to the date of entry.
Those who have recovered from Covid-19 must present a certificate provided by an entity qualified to do so from the country where the entrant was treated. Within 36 hours prior to arrival, entrants must submit a health declaration and state where they plan to stay. Within 72 hours before they leave Vietnam, they must also have tested negative for the coronavirus.