Vietnam welcoming tourists again but quarantine, testing rules unclear

Vietnam is poised to welcome international travellers on Tuesday but a lack of clarity on the rules of a wider reopening while the coronavirus is still rampaging is causing confusion.

It remains unclear what kind of quarantine and testing rules the Southeast Asian nation will impose on foreign visitors when it reopens after a two-year closure. It doesn’t help that Vietnam has been seeing a surge, with daily cases averaging about 165,000 in the past week through March 14.

The tourism resumption was announced on Feb 17 with the government saying it would lift most curbs starting March 15 yet until now, the government hasn’t issued specific guidelines. 

It said a month ago that tourists must present proof of being vaccinated or having recovered from Covid-19 with a negative test result; and once landed in Vietnam, must undergo 24 hours of self-quarantine. In November, the country started allowing international travellers on group tours and only to select destinations provided they were vaccinated or have recovered from the virus, and can show a negative test taken in the past 72 hours or less.

While the tourism ministry favoured a quarantine-free broad reopening, the health ministry on March 1 proposed ordering tourists to undergo a three-day self-isolation. 

A day before the reopening, Deputy Premier Vu Duc Dam directed the health ministry to “promptly revise regulations and requirements” for foreign tourists and send the proposal to the tourism ministry by the end of March 14. Still, there isn’t a guidance available on government websites.

The confusion doesn’t help Vietnam’s travel industry, Pham Ha, chief executive of Hanoi-based tour operator Lux Group, wrote in a March 9 opinion piece in VnExpress International. 

Tourism accounted for 9.2% of GDP in 2019, rising from a 6.3% contribution in 2015, according to government data. Vietnam aims to host 18 million foreign travellers by 2026, matching the number of guests pre-pandemic, according to a report by Tuoi Tre.