|Foreign tourists seen walking around Hoàn Kiếm Lake in downtown Hà Nội on March 17. — VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — The Vietnamese Government late Saturday announced that it would temporarily halt entry to all foreigners, starting 00:00 March 22, citing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
This latest move was a drastic step up from a decision effective starting March 18 requiring that all foreign and Vietnamese entrants into Việt Nam would have to be quarantined for 14 days, given that the rising number of coronavirus positive cases in the country in recent days have mostly originated from returning Vietnamese and foreign tourists from European countries – especially the UK – which WHO has declared to be the new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its notice, the foreign ministry said that for those entering Việt Nam for diplomatic and official purposes, for participation in major diplomatic events, or experts, business managers or highly skilled workers, the Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of National Defence will coordinate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, and other relevant agencies to issue visas if necessary.
However, all entrants in these categories into Việt Nam will be subject to medical checks and mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The temporary suspension will also be applied to all overseas Vietnamese and their relatives granted with certificates of visa exemption.
The Vietnamese foreign ministry said it has notified this decision to diplomatic missions, consulates and representative offices of international organisations in Việt Nam and Vietnamese diplomatic missions abroad in order to ensure that the citizens would strictly abide by Việt Nam regulations on epidemic prevention and control.
Watch our video on how Việt Nam has done to fight COVID-19
In a document briefing released by the Government Office today following yesterday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc ordered more drastic and robust measures to deal with the pandemic that has now progressed into "a new phase," with a bid to avoid community transmission of the virus.
The Government leader asked for a change in people's habits, including increasing online transactions, always wearing face masks in public and on public transport, and refraining from holding or participating in gatherings larger than 50 people – including funerals, weddings and even religious rituals.
Entertainment venues like bars, karaoke bars and massage shops will also be closed temporarily.
PM Phúc ordered all law enforcement authorities to be on high alert and strictly control entrants into Việt Nam via sea, waterway, road and air routes.
He also asked that the competent authorities and local governments to try to reduce the number of flights transporting passengers from overseas into Việt Nam to prevent overloading of quarantine sites, given the compulsory quarantine mandated for all entrants into the country.
Non-compliance to quarantine measures, failure to declare health status or activities that aid escaping or avoiding quarantine would be severely punished.
Students, workers and overseas Vietnamese outside Việt Nam are urged to stay put and observe all COVID-19 prevention and control guidelines and protocols set by their host countries, PM Phúc said.
He added that in case of essential travel, they must register with their embassies or representative bodies of Việt Nam in their host countries to cooperate with the transport ministry so that commercial flights can be arranged, as more and countries are shuttering their borders and implement unprecedented lockdown measures.
The transport ministry is told to “create favourable conditions for flights carrying foreign passengers out of Việt Nam.”
The PM also agreed with the National Steering Committee on Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in assigning the Ministry of National Defence with purchasing 10 mobile coronavirus-testing vehicles.
The health ministry is also asked to devise a plan to have a reserve force of retired doctors, nurses and health workers and medical students ready to be deployed. — VNS