PM orders suspension of flights from UK, South Africa due to new coronavirus variants

Update: January, 06/2021 - 10:30


Vietnamese citizens waiting at London's Heathrow International Airport preparing to board a repatriation flight in August last year. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has ordered the suspension of flights carrying Vietnamese citizens home from countries and territories which have reported new variants of SARS-CoV-2 and seen complex pandemic developments, initially the UK and South Africa.

The two countries have seen two new variants of the coronavirus that are reportedly much more transmissible than others and have been responsible for surging infections.

B117, the UK’s variant of concern, is said to be up to 70 per cent more contagious and has been reported in Việt Nam in the case of a citizen repatriated from the UK.

Việt Nam has kept its borders closed since March last year to prevent the spread of the virus and only permitted a limited number of flights from overseas bringing in returning citizens, diplomats, foreign business executives and experts, and all arrivals are placed under quarantine for 14 days.

The Government leader made the instruction late on Tuesday as part of efforts to intensify COVID-19 prevention and control to ensure a safe Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, which falls in the first half of February this year.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is tasked with the strict screening of Vietnamese citizens abroad who wish to return to the country, to ensure the repatriation of those most in need.   

The PM's directive notes that the pandemic continues to spread rapidly in many countries, with more than 600,000 new cases and 6,000 fatalities recorded each day. In particular, several new and more contagious variants of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in 38 countries.

The risk of the coronavirus entering and spreading in Việt Nam remains high due to both legal and illegal entries and negligence in disease prevention and control among the community.

In implementing the message of the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat on intensifying disease prevention and control, the Prime Minister requested the Defence Ministry to work with the Ministry of Public Security and People’s Committees of border provinces to tighten border management to prevent illegal entry.

The Ministry of Defence and local People’s Committees should maintain close monitoring of all people entering Việt Nam and ensure the 14-day concentrated quarantine and strict medical surveillance after quarantine so as to stop the coronavirus from spreading at concentrated quarantine facilities and from these facilities to the community.

In case new infections are detected, the ministries of health, public security and defence, and provincial and municipal People’s Committees must immediately trace those with possible contact with the patients, and apply necessary measures.

The Ministry of Public Security must intensify investigations and punish people entering Viet Nam illegally or organising illegal entry, accommodation facilities serving these people, and those disobeying disease prevention and control regulations.

The Ministry of Transport should direct the strict implementation of pandemic prevention regulations before, during and after flights.

Chairpersons of provincial and municipal People’s Committees were requested to intensify supervision to detect illegal entry, and enforce the strict implementation of regulations on concentrated quarantine and medical surveillance after concentrated quarantine as well as on wearing face masks in public places.

Provinces and cities should tighten the implementation of disease prevention and control measures at organisations, residential areas and risky areas such as supermarkets, stations, airports, schools and hospitals.

The Government leader also required ministries and agencies to step up communications on the risk of the pandemic, and encourage the public to stay vigilant, wear face masks at public places and avoid mass gatherings, and report illegal entry and disease prevention and control violations. — VNS