Expats welcome vaccine passport recognitions, but stay put

By Viet Anh   November 9, 2021 | 05:31 am PT
Expats and locals are delighted about several bilateral vaccine passport recognitions, but high travel costs and long quarantine periods are preventing them from traveling home and back.

Since early November, the U.S., the U.K., Japan and Belarus have officially accepted Vietnam's Covid-19 vaccine passport, with certification required for specific vaccine types. Vietnam has also accepted the vaccine passports of these nations, which are included in its temporary list of 72 countries and territories.

From San Diego, California, Derek Pham, a Vietnamese expat, said the news gave him a greater feeling of security. The acceptance is helpful for people whose businesses require regular international travel like him, he added.

Pham plans to visit relatives and friends in Vietnam and deal with some business issues caused by the prolonged impacts of the pandemic.

Chad Dave, a British expat in HCMC, Vietnam, is delighted that he can go home and return to Vietnam. He wants to see his ailing grandfather in the U.K. and spend some time during Christmas with his family.

"It is hard for many people like me, living and working in Vietnam, not to go home for a long time."

In London, Nguyen Thi Anh Tho said the bilateral acceptance of Covid-19 vaccine passports was beneficial for citizens of both countries. She was quite surprised by the U.K.'s late approval, given that the majority of Vietnamese have been vaccinated with a vaccine administered in the U.K. as well. Nguyen said she had not seen her family members since late 2019 and missed them a lot.

Nguyen Thi Anh Tho is in the U.K., November 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Anh Tho

Nguyen Thi Anh Tho is in the U.K., November 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Anh Tho

Not yet

According to a plan made by the Ministry of Transport for resumption of commercial international flights from January 2022, fully vaccinated passengers and those who have recovered from the disease will be quarantined for seven days at paid facilities on arrival in Vietnam while unvaccinated people must undergo a 14-day quarantine.

In the second phase starting in the second quarter of 2022, passengers with vaccine passports approved by Vietnam will be exempt from quarantine. Unvaccinated travelers still have to undergo 14-day quarantine.

Pham in the U.S. said he has not decided when he would fly back to Vietnam. His biggest concern was the seven-day quarantine, meaning he would only has two weeks left for the different things he has to do.

"It is really difficult for me to follow this schedule."

In addition, Pham worried that he may not find a timely flight to the U.S., disrupting his business schedule.

Derek Pham in Hanoi in 2019. Photo by Derek Pham

Derek Pham in Hanoi in 2019. Photo by Derek Pham

Thomas O'Neil, an American living in HCMC, said he wished to visit his family because he has not met them for two years. He also wanted to introduce his Vietnamese wife to them.

Though he was confident that he could return to Vietnam because he has a temporary residence card (TRC), the seven-day quarantine period worried him. If he had to go to a hotel or other location, it would be too expensive, and he would also lose a lot of time.

"If I can quarantine in my house, it will be fine."

O'Neil has also encountered problems in applying for a visa for his wife to go to the U.S. with him. He hopes that the vaccine passport recognition will make it possible for her to get a tourist visas. The couple are planning to visit the U.S. next year.

Expressing similar anxiety about procedures, Dave said it was not clear what people had to do to go out of Vietnam and get back in. The entry requirements for Vietnam made for a long and expensive process, he said. He estimated it would cost him $6,000 for a two-way ticket, besides hotel quarantine cost.

He was also afraid that he could be stuck in the U.K. and be separated from his loved ones in Vietnam for a long time, not to mention losing his job.

"I think it's a matter of time and things will become easy again. This is why I'm waiting," he said, adding that he did not mind taking tests and quarantining in Vietnam.

Nguyen in the U.K. is also concerned about expensive chartered flights, saying she was waiting for commercial flights which are cheaper.

Another concern she had was whether she would be able to travel freely within Vietnam in case there are new Covid clusters. She said she did not want to get "stuck" in Vietnam if things did not go smoothly during her one month break here.

Gari Hirai, a Japanese expat in HCMC, wants to travel to Japan to meet her family after two years and see her grandmother "who is very old."

But Hirai said she was waiting for Japan to lift its mandatory quarantine requirements.

Gari Hirai is in Da Nang in summer 2020. Photo courtesy of Hirai

Gari Hirai is in Da Nang in 2020. Photo courtesy of Gari Hirai

The authorities allow people from Vietnam to self-quarantine at home as long as they don’t use public transportation. However, she needed to use it because her home was far from the airport. If she returned to Japan now, she would have to stay in a hotel near the airport for at least 10 days, which was inconvenient.

Pham Hung An, a Vietnamese expat in Tokyo, said the vaccine passport recognition means he and fellow citizens in Japan would be able to return to Vietnam after being away for a long time.

But he said he does not have a plan to return yet because the travel and quarantine expenses would be too high.

"If Vietnam cuts quarantine time to three days, I will make a specific plan to visit my family."

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