|Russian tourists on pilot vaccine passport programme to Khánh Hoà Province, Việt Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo Phan Sáu|
HÀ NỘI — In the latest report to the Government on the plan for Việt Nam’s full reopening of international tourism from March 15, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Sports has expressed its disagreements with some proposed COVID-19 related guidance that it considers cumbersome.
Made public on Friday, the report states the Government and Prime Minister have directed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to propose a roadmap to safely reopen tourism activities from March 15, 2022.
After receiving comments from the Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs, Public Security, National Defence, Transport, Information and Communication, the tourism ministry has now completed its reopening plan.
All ministries have agreed on the time, requirements and organisation of the reopening in the draft plan. However, there are a number of different opinions on the safety protocols for visitors and some other issues that need instructions from the Prime Minister.
For example, the tourism ministry asks that tourists have a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to departure, while the health ministry proposes a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to entry.
The tourism ministry stated that at a workshop to discuss a roadmap and solutions to open up international tourism activities, held in collaboration with the National Board for Private Economic Development, the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), and the Việt Nam Tourism Association held on January 24, all opinions agreed with the 72 hours prior to departure requirement.
It said the regulation is more reasonable and practical, as tourists in remote markets have long flight times, or tourists may encounter delays, cancellations or late connecting flights, so it is not recommended that tourists have negative test results within 72 hours prior to entry.
The health ministry in the latest proposals also wants tourists to remain at their accommodation – in essence, quarantined – for the first 24 hours after arrival, and ask them to not leave the place of accommodation in the first 72 hours (they could travel outside with daily negative tests), which has drawn widespread criticism from travel companies and market experts who deem the protocol too inconvenient and likely to turn away prospective tourists.
The tourism ministry instead wants foreign tourists to go straight to their place of accommodation after entry via air and take a COVID-19 test within the first 24 hours. If the result is negative, they could freely travel and take part in tourism activities. If the result is positive appropriate measures will be taken. Tourists entering Việt Nam via land, rail and sea routes can obtain a test at the border gate (rapid antigen test). If their test returns negative they are free to travel, without having to undergo quarantine.
This relaxed requirement aims to create equality for foreign tourists, not to cause discrimination in the COVID-19 protocols between international and domestic tourists, and create conditions to attract tourists from other countries to Việt Nam. Furthermore, tourists arriving on sea routes usually only go sightseeing according to the day tour programme, according to the tourism ministry.
Before entering Việt Nam, tourists must already meet the following conditions: having received full two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with the last dose received within at least 14 days and not more than 6 months by the time of entry; and having negative test results for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR/RT-LAMP method within 72 hours before departure.
The public security ministry has sought to have tourism and hospitality agencies build a plan to develop procedures for a safe welcoming of tourists, and to get reviews and approval from agencies, which the tourism ministry also took issue with.
They do not want this item in the reopening plan, arguing that another administrative procedure for tourism businesses during the reopening process is ill-advised. Plans for welcoming tourists having to be approved by authorities should only be the cases during the pilot reopening phase, and when the full reopening period has started, only tourism businesses that have passed related regulations are allowed to operate and welcome foreign tourists anyway.
To ensure the safe reopening of tourism activities in the new normal, the tourism ministry also proposed the Prime Minister pay attention to a number of important tasks, including the resumption of pre-pandemic entry visa policies for foreigners, completing the COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control application (PC-COVID) to support tourists during their stay in Việt Nam, and completing relevant systems to be able to issue COVID-19 vaccine certificates as soon as possible, to facilitate Vietnamese people’s overseas travels. — VNS