Hanoi’s latest quarantine rules frustrate visitors from high-risk areas

By Staff reporters   November 17, 2021 | 06:03 am PT
Hanoi’s latest quarantine rules frustrate visitors from high-risk areas
Passengers arrive in Noi Bai Airport on a flight from HCMC, Oct. 11, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Those who are traveling from high-risk areas are forced by Hanoi’s latest 7-day self-isolation mandate to spend more and significantly re-plan their trips.

28-year-old The Minh is a Hanoi resident who works in HCMC. He finds the new mandate, signed Tuesday and taking effect Wednesday, unnecessary.

Minh had planned to fly to Hanoi early next month for an important interview but has had to reschedule his flight to arrive one week earlier, which cost him an extra VND2 million ($89).

"I have to cancel all of my plans with business partners and friends next week," Minh complained. "I’m trying very hard to finish my work before my flight now."

Minh, who has been fully vaccinated and has strictly obeyed Vietnam’s five safety rules, thinks two rounds of rapid testing, before and after flight, would be enough to contain the risks. He has also bought a quick test kit for use at home to ensure he isn’t infected before a flight.

For fully vaccinated or Covid recovered travelers from high-risk cities and provinces like HCMC, Binh Duong, Long An and Dong Nai, Hanoi mandates one week’s self-quarantine, plus two rounds of testing, once on the first day of arrival, and then on the 7th day.

Those from high-risk areas who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to undergo two tests, one week in self-quarantine, and another week of careful self-monitoring with observance of five safety rules: masking, disinfection, maintaining distance, avoiding gatherings and making health declaration.

From safer, lower-risk areas, fully vaccinated travelers have to self-quarantine for one week, have one test done on the first day of arrival. Those who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to self-quarantine for one week, self-monitor for another week, and undergo two rounds of testing.

As for the latest mandate, which was issued at too short a notice for many travelers to adjust their travel plans, some doctors have said that with the population vaccinated to a certain extent, obeying the five safety rules is more important than such self-quarantine which may or may not help to reduce infection risks and will negatively affect economic development.

Nguyen Huy Nga, former head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, said that Hanoi’s latest regulation was not in line with the government’s policy to ensure smooth travel and facilitate economic recovery.

"As the capital of the country Hanoi attracts a lot of people coming to do business. The seven-day isolation policy will affect economic recovery."

Nga said that only people returning from Level 4 areas (those with high contagion risk) should be asked to isolate themselves upon returning to the city.

Van Khois air ticket to Hanoi on Dec. 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of Khoi

Van Khoi's air ticket to Hanoi on Dec. 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of Khoi

Dr. Tran Si Tuan also disagrees with the regulation. Many people only want to travel to Hanoi in 1-2 days for business. The mandated seven-day quarantine would "discourage them" and they would no longer want to go to the capital city anymore, he said.

Tuan proposed that Hanoi requires fully vaccinated visitors to scan QR codes upon their arrival or at certain locations to facilitate contact tracing when necessary. "Pandemic prevention measures must ensure public safety without hindering socio-economic development and people’s travel needs," he noted.

27-year-old Van Khoi, an office employee in HCMC, will also fly to Hanoi early next month. Khoi said initially he intended to stay with a friend, but had had to change his plan and spend more money by booking a room for one week of self-isolation at a hotel.

Khoi had also taken extra precautions by booking more expensive flight tickets that allow him to reschedule flexibly, in case Hanoi changes its mind or the pandemic in HCMC takes a wrong turn.

Khoi said staying indoors during self-quarantine wasn’t a problem because he could still work online.

But he has had to constantly update himself with the latest safety rules. "What I fear most is that in the next few days, Hanoi will apply general quarantine to all travelers from HCMC," he said.

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