Vietnam drops COVID-19 restrictions for foreign visitors

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam on Wednesday scrapped quarantine and other travel restrictions for foreign visitors in an effort to fully reopen its border after two years of pandemic-related closure, the government said.

Visitors entering the Southeast Asian country only need to show a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival, according to the Health Ministry, which said the new measures were effective immediately.

Visitors must monitor their own health during the first 10 days of their stay and notify medical professionals in Vietnam if they experience any COVID-19-like symptoms.

Vietnam also reinstated visa exemptions and the issuance of visas on arrival similar to their pre-pandemic status.

Vietnam closed its border and stopped issuing tourist visas in March 2020 to contain the spread of the coronavirus. It partially reopened to international tourism last November for visitors traveling in strict bubbles.

In Hanoi’s Old Quarter, where streets were bustling before the pandemic, many shops have closed due to a lack of tourists. The few that remain open are struggling.

“It has been very hard. Business is so slow because there are no foreign tourists,” said Tuyet Lien, the owner of a shop selling silk and other souvenir products.

“I’m very excited the country is reopening completely. The tourists will come back soon and business will thrive again,” Lien added.

The tourism industry comprised nearly 10% of the country’s economy before the pandemic.

“We believe Vietnam is quickly changing to be better aligned with other global destinations that have reopened for tourism. We remain positive that inbound travel volume will gradually rise,” said Mathieu Le Besq, general manager of Accor hotels in Vung Tau, a beach resort city in southern Vietnam.

The reopening comes as Vietnam reports record numbers of new COVID-19 infections, with a daily average of nearly 200,000 cases over the past two weeks.

Despite the high infection rate, the Health Ministry says the majority of patients have mild symptoms from the omicron variant and do not require hospitalization.

Vietnam has administered over 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, covering 80% of the country’s 98 million people, according to the Health Ministry.

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