Over 31,000 illegal entrants caught entering Vietnam in 2020 amid Covid fears

By Hoang Thuy, Nguyen Quy   January 9, 2021 | 02:31 pm GMT+7
Over 31,000 illegal entrants caught entering Vietnam in 2020 amid Covid fears
Border guards in Lang Son Province which borders China, February 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Border troops detained 31,460 people who tried to illegally enter the country last year as the government stepped up efforts, including border closures, to combat Covid-19.

They included 25,000 people entering from China and the rest were from Laos and Cambodia, Major General Nguyen Xuan Kien, director of the Department of Military Medicine, said at a meeting held on Friday to review the Covid-19 fight.

Vietnam has a land border of more than 5,000 km, 117 border gates and 88 crossings with China, Laos and Cambodia.

It closed its borders in March last year and stopped the entry of foreign nationals except those with diplomatic or official passports or are high-skilled workers.

But a large number of people were found illegally entering the country through unmanned paths and trails, exposing the country to higher risks of community transmission, Kien said.

Border guards also investigated 153 individuals for "organizing illegal exit from and entry into Vietnam."

Deputy Minister of National Defense Lieutenant General Tran Don ordered the military to bolster troop numbers along borders to prevent illegal entrants since a large of number of Vietnamese working in neighboring countries like Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and China would seek to return home for the Lunar New Year, or Tet, in mid-February.

Since entry through main border gates is now limited, many would try to enter illegally, he added.

The pandemic situation is worsening in many Southeast Asian countries while Vietnam has successfully contained outbreaks, and so many Vietnamese seek to return home.

More than 7,000 soldiers are stationed at 1,600 checkpoints along the borders with China, Laos and Cambodia.

After nine Vietnamese illegally entered the country from Myanmar via Cambodia last month and then four tested positive for the coronavirus, control has been tightened at border gates and paths and trails.

More risks, more pressure

Major General Nguyen Xuan Doi said Military Region 9, which he commands, manages a land border of over 208 km around the Mekong Delta area and a maritime border of 740 km, and the task of keeping out illegal entrants is hard.

Since Vietnamese in neighboring countries would return home in the coming weeks for Tet, Military Region 9 has set up 229 patrol and control teams, he said.

Major General Nguyen Quoc Duyet, commander of the Hanoi High Command, said the government should quarantine people coming through the capital’s Noi Bai Airport in other localities from now until the end of February to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 for the capital.

The government has banned all flights from countries and territories like the U.K. and South Africa that have reported mutations of the new coronavirus.

The Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health and Transport have been instructed to draw up the full list of countries and territories with the mutated virus.

Since international flights were suspended in late March, the government has organized around 260 repatriation flights to bring Vietnamese back from 59 countries and territories.

Special flights carrying foreign experts and investors have also been allowed to fly into Vietnam.

 
 
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