Hanoi, HCMC airports stop receiving South Korea arrivals as Covid-19 infections surge

By Anh Duy   March 1, 2020 | 07:20 am PT
Hanoi, HCMC airports stop receiving South Korea arrivals as Covid-19 infections surge
Passengers flying from South Korea wait for medical screening at Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi, February 27, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Kim Bui.
Starting from Sunday, passenger flights from South Korea to Hanoi's Noi Bai and Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat airports would be diverted to smaller airports.

Passengers scheduled for Noi Bai will have to land at Van Don Airport in Quang Ninh Province, around four hours drive away, while those to Tan Son Nhat will have to travel a similar extra distance to Can Tho Airport in the namesake Mekong Delta city.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV), the decision to have Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat airports stop receiving flights from areas with the Covid-19 epidemic in South Korea was made in accordance with regulations on disease prevention and control as directed by the government.

The novel coronavirus in South Korea has spread quickly to make the country the second biggest epicenter after China, with 3,526 infections as of Sunday, including 17 deaths.

The flight suspension decision would only apply to passenger flights, and the crews of affected flights would be instructed to redirect their destinations prior to departure.

Cargo flights from South Korea would still be allowed to land in Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat Airports as scheduled.

Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says about 200,000 Vietnamese citizens are studying and working in South Korea, with 8,285 living in Daegu City, and 18,502 in North Gyeongsang Province, the two localities hit hardest by the virus.

Over the past few days, the country's two largest airports have been receiving a large number of passengers from South Korea, causing the medical quarantine facilities in the cities to be overloaded.

HCMC received over 6,800 people from South Korea between February 23 and 29 while Hanoi received around 2,000 on February 27 and 28.

The cities are considering establishing field hospitals to accommodate the passengers, with HCMC planning one near Tan Son Nhat Airport as around 7,000 Vietnamese from southern provinces living in South Korea are expected to return home in the coming days.

Airlines have been required to inform all passengers traveling from South Korea to Vietnam to be truthful when filling in their health declarations, as well as recommend them to take the 14-day quarantine period into consideration when booking flights.

Vietnam has recorded a total of 16 Covid-19 patients, all of whom have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. The country has reported no new infection case since February 13.

The global death toll on Sunday climbed to near 3,000, mostly in China, followed by 43 in Iran, 29 in Italy and 17 in South Korea. The U.S., Australia and Thailand have reported their first deaths.

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