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As Omicron looms, no haste over reopening: Deputy PM

By Lan Huong   December 25, 2021 | 11:11 pm PT
As Omicron looms, no haste over reopening: Deputy PM
International tourists, some of the first to visit Vietnam since the country closed its borders in March 2020, tour Hoi An in November 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Hau
Vietnam will not hurry to fully reopen to foreign tourists as concerns rice about the Omicron variant, Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam says.

While the tourism industry "should be better prepared and renew itself to be ready to welcome back foreign tourists," the reopening should not be hasty, he said a seminar on tourism recovery held Saturday.

Instead, he said, Vietnam has to continue taking "firm steps" like the current pilot reopening program being implemented in Phu Quoc, Khanh Hoa and Quang Nam.

Deputy Health Minister Do Xuan Tuyen said: "We should not be negligent about the pandemic during the new normal period when the world is struggling with the Omicron strain, which is 3.2 times more infectious than the Delta strain."

The note of caution came after Ha Van Sieu, deputy head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said the country should fully reopen tourism from border gates to regular flights.

The Omicron variant, which was first reported last month from South Africa, has spread to 108 countries and territories with over 150,000 cases, prompting governments to impose stricter restrictions including travel bans, Reuters reported.

Nguyen Luu Trung, vice chairman of Kien Giang Province, home to Phu Quoc Island, said the emergence of the Omicron variant has had immediate impacts on Vietnam's tourism reopening plan.

Phu Quoc is expected to welcome groups of tourists from South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia this month but fears of the new virus strain forced them to reschedule their tours to the island.

So far, the island has welcomed three international flights with 412 foreign tourists and is scheduled to welcome 10-12 flights from Dubai, South Korea and Malaysia in November, Trung said.

Quang Nam, Quang Ninh, Kien Giang, Khanh Hoa and Da Nang, home to several UNESCO heritage sites, have got the green light to receive foreign visitors under the vaccine passport trial program starting mid-November.

In more than a month after partial reopening of international tourism following nearly two years of closure over the Covid-19 pandemic, Vietnam has welcomed 3,500 foreign visitors on special tour packages.

 
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