Clad in full blue PPEs, 297 Vietnamese passengers from Japan landed at the Van Don Airport in Quang Ninh province, about 153 kilometers east of the capital city of Hanoi. They were the first inbound travelers holding “vaccine passports” to be granted entry to Vietnam and to undergo the new seven-day quarantine rule.
Vietnam, currently grappling with a growing number of COVID-19 cases, is slowly trying to resume economic activities, starting with the trial vaccine passport program.
All 297 passengers, who have been fully vaccinated (with their second doses administered at least 14 days but no more than 12 months prior to their arrival) have also become the first to test the newly implemented seven-day quarantine protocol, instead of being isolated for 14 days.
The passengers were also required to show proof of a negative RT-PCR/RT-LAMP COVID-19 test result issued within 72 hours before their departure from Japan.
Van Don Airport Director Pham Ngoc Sau said the passengers are mandated to strictly follow COVID-19 prevention and control measures issued by the government.
After a carefully managed deplaning and immigration and customs processing, all passengers were transported to the Novotel Ha Long Hotel in Quang Ninh, where they will be staying in the next seven days.
After they’ve completed their weeklong quarantine, they will have to remain in self-isolation for another seven days.
Another flight carrying Vietnamese nationals holding vaccine passports will be arriving from the US on September 12.
The Van Don Airport in Quang Ninh has been one of the airports designated for repatriation flights since March last year, when Vietnam closed all of its borders and suspended entry of foreign arrivals.
This is the first time Vietnam used the widely debated “vaccine passport” — a digital or physical pass that shows a person’s vaccination status as well as COVID-19 test results. The country’s tourism board has repeatedly urged the government to allow usage of the vaccine passport to restart tourism, a sector that heavily relies on foreign entries.
While vaccine passports are already in use by various airlines and countries - and were proven to be an effective start to international tourism - Vietnam remained skeptical of the idea. In March this year, vaccine passport holder Calvin Q. Trinh landed at Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCMC from the US. His “COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card” showed he already completed his required vaccinations. The government, however, made Trinh quarantine for 14 days.
There are no clear indications yet if Vietnam will soon use the vaccine passports for foreign leisure travelers.
Both Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet are trialing the use of vaccine passports. The airlines have signed agreements with the International Air Transport Association, which manages the vaccine passports, to carry fully vaccinated passengers in and out of Vietnam.
Just recently, Vietnam Airlines carried 18 passengers with digital travel passes from Hanoi to London. The flag carrier earlier used IATA’s vaccine travel pass for a Tokyo-bound flight last month. Both trials showed promising results, and may pave the way for resumption of inbound and outbound commercial flights.