Vietnam tourism association proposes travel suspension to epidemic-hit countries

By Vi Nguyen, Hoang Phong   February 26, 2020 | 01:34 am PT
Vietnam tourism association proposes travel suspension to epidemic-hit countries
South Korea is one of favorite destinations of Vietnamese tourists. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.
The Vietnam Tourism Association has asked tour operators to stop taking tourists to countries hit hard by the Covid-19 epidemic, including South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran.

All tour operators in the country are advised to stop organizing tours to these countries until they are declared safe from the Covid-19 epidemic. Tours scheduled for February and March should be postponed, the association (VTA) said Tuesday.

The move comes as the epidemic worsens in South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran, with the number of infection cases rising continuously.

The VTA has advised tour groups that have already entered the epidemic-stricken countries to change their schedules, not to take visitors to epidemic-hit areas and crowded places, and strictly adhere to regulations on prevention and control of the epidemic.

Tourists returning to Vietnam from such places have to be quarantined for 14 days in accordance with the regulations of Vietnam's Ministry of Health.

Following the association’s statement, Vietnamese tour companies have cancelled all tours to South Korea, where the number of infections had climbed to 1,196 as of Wednesday morning; and removed Italy as a destination from their European tours.

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of Vietravel, said that the company officially closed all tours to South Korea until the end of March and cancelled all itineraries involving Italy. Meanwhile, tours to Japan are still open.

"Today, we had a group tour to South Korea, but the company cancelled and agreed to refund tourists 100 percent, including visa fees," she said.

Vietravel has cut Italy from its itinerary for now. Customers who’d bought tours to Italy have also cancelled them over the novel coronavirus fears.

The company also shifted some of its tours as well as its short-term focus to areas less affected by Covid-19, including Western Europe, Russia and the U.K.

Doan Thanh Tra, marketing director of Saigontourist, Vietnam’s leading tour operator, said the company has cancelled all South Korean and Japanese tours from now until the end of March.

On average, there are two to three tours to South Korea and Japan each every month, he said.

"Tours scheduled to depart in April have not been cancelled and are waiting for the latest updates on the epidemic situation in these two countries before deciding whether or not to go," Tra said.

Nguyen Minh Man, representative of the TST Travel Company, said that they had stopped all tours to South Korea with departure dates in March and April. He said about 100 customers have cancelled their tours, too.

Vietnam has been tightening control on those coming from epidemic-stricken areas in South Korea and other countries. No person coming from any area that has experienced a Covid-19 outbreak will be allowed to enter Vietnam, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a directive Tuesday.

The new directive applied to South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran and all other countries and territories that have reported cases of Covid-19. Citizens of countries or territories affected by the virus are required to submit health declarations on arrival and will be placed in quarantine if they carry symptoms like high fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.

Some airlines have temporarily suspended flights between South Korea and Vietnam until March. Starting Monday, the Ministry of Health requires all tourists from South Korea to complete health declarations. South Korea has become the second largest Covid-19 infected country after China.

Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam had said Tuesday that in order for the country to achieve the positive results it has so far, Vietnam had been proactively implementing measures to prevent and limit the epidemic from mid-December last year, as soon as reports appeared of the Covid-19 in China's Wuhan City.

Staring February 1, Vietnam had suspended all flights to and from China and stopped granting tourist visas to Chinese from epidemic-stricken areas.

As of Wednesday, South Korea has recorded 1,261 Covid-19 infections, making it the second largest outbreak area in the world after China. The death toll in the country has risen to 12.

Around 200,000 Vietnamese are currently studying and working in South Korea, 8,285 of them in Daegu, according to Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In Vietnam, all of 16 confirmed Covid-19 infections have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

The global Covid-19 death toll has reached 2,764, mostly in China, and the number of infections has topped 80,000.

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