Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc at Wednesday cabinet meeting. — VNA/VNS Photo
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam will not open its borders for international tourists anytime soon to avoid a resurgence of the coronavirus, the Government leader has said.
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc stressed the importance of staying on “high alert” as he was addressing a cabinet on Wednesday evening on COVID-19 prevention and control measures.
With stringent border closures enacted since late March, Việt Nam has by now virtually eradicated the coronavirus outbreak within its borders as the country has gone 70 days without any new community infections, with the occasional spike in new imported cases on repatriation flights to bring Vietnamese overseas home.
PM Phúc said that to realise the dual goals of safeguarding public health and promoting economic development post-COVID-19, the Government has already allowed for a “limited” open border for foreign investors and experts to enter Việt Nam and for Vietnamese labourers to go work overseas where possible.
Strict COVID-19 prevention and control protocol, including mandatory quarantine, are needed to prevent the virus from spreading to the community, he said.
However, foreign investors and experts might be subject to more flexible quarantine policies, including shortened stay and expedited paperwork, he suggested, adding that the frequency of special flights bringing investors and experts to Việt Nam should increase.
“The Government has not allowed the entry of international tourists into Việt Nam. This has been the consistent stance from the Government and I ask that all sectors, agencies and local governments to stay on high alert to protect the health of the people,” PM Phúc said, adding that we should not be impatient and complacent as all the achievements made so far in combating the pandemic could be “wiped out.”
He didn’t rule out the possibility of resuming international commercial flights but the timing must be “seriously deliberated” to avoid reintroducing the virus into the country.
During a cabinet meeting earlier this month, PM Phúc tasked the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control with rounding up a list of “safe destinations” – meaning the locations must not have reported any community transmission in the last 30 days – to consider reopening flights to, with quarantine protocols still applied for all arrivals.
During the meeting on Wednesday, he noted the pandemic situation in those locations must be closely monitored so flights could be stopped when the situation is deemed to have got out of control.
PM Phúc asked that authorities keep up the good work and be ready to deploy fast contact-tracing measures if a new case is discovered, and Government-run quarantine sites must also always stand ready.
Masks are required in public and crowded places, PM Phúc said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the meeting said that since April 15, in co-ordination with authorities in Việt Nam and overseas, 33 repatriation flights have been conducted to bring 8,000 Vietnamese citizens back from 42 countries and territories.
More such flights are being planned in the next two months to respond to demands of more than 35,000 Vietnamese stranded overseas wishing to return, the ministry said.
PM Phúc agreed that for the time being, authorities should facilitate the return of 14,000 Vietnamese on repatriation commercial flights, with priority given to the elderly, children under 18 years old, the sick, workers whose labour contracts have expired and students who have finished their studies or cannot find accommodation.
During the meeting, the PM also asked the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and the State Bank of Vietnam to expedite the implementation the Government's aid packages for those seriously affected by COVID-19.
COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses covered
Vietnamese State officials on overseas mission and their relatives will have their COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses covered by the Government, according to a newly-issued resolution.
Those qualified for the assistance include officials, civil servants, public employees and labourers receiving wages from the State budget and officers working in armed forces who are mobilised to work overseas at Vietnamese representative agencies.
Their wives or husbands and children under 19 years old living overseas with the officials will also have the expenses covered.
The State budget will cover COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses which are not included in the contracts offered by the insurance company.
According to the resolution, the evolving COVID-19 pandemic has continued to expand in many countries in which Vietnamese representative agencies are located. Vietnamese officials working at those agencies are put at high risk of infection while performing the citizen protection tasks in the pandemic hot spots.
The COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses at some places are higher than health insurance coverage and exceed the coverage capacity of the Vietnamese representative agencies. Therefore the Government decided to cover the expenses. — VNS