Vietnam’s tourism industry is hyped up about the planned inbound travel resumption two weeks from now, but the continuous increase of COVID-19 cases in recent days is making everyone anxious.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed 98,762 new coronavirus infections, the second-highest ever daily tally – next to 98,864 cases on February 26 – since Vietnam reported its first COVID case in January 2020. The new figure drives the country’s overall tally to 3,557,629. The current death toll stands at 40,338 while the number of recovered patients has already reached 2,479,833.
Hanoi, the worst-hit in this new surge, has already warned of reaching “COVID peak in two weeks’ time”. In an interview with Vietnam News on Sunday, Hanoi People’s Committee Chairman Chu Ngoc Anh said the capital city is expecting to see a further increase in coronavirus infections in mid-March. In the last few days, Hanoi was already averaging 11,000 new cases daily, with 76 of its communes and wards now placed under Level 3 (high risk). The chairman, however, noted that 96% of the patients are showing mild symptoms, and 95% of them are being treated at home.
The city announced yesterday it has instructed students from the first to sixth grades to return to online classes. District-level administrations have been tasked to submit proposals on safety measures for students and citizens amidst the rising cases.
The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism have yet to clarify how the increasing infections would affect the March 15 reopening plan. The latest information released in mid-February only explained the general policies for inbound travelers. According to initial plans, the country will scrap travel restrictions previously implemented and will restore visa exemptions for 101 countries. Fully vaccinated travelers only need to self-isolate for 24 hours while they wait for the result of the antigen test they took when they entered the country.
Inbound tourism plays a major part in Vietnam’s economy, contributing to about $32 billion a year before COVID. When the borders were closed in March 2020, foreigners except for diplomats and experts were banned from entering the country, resulting in about 96% decrease in foreign arrivals.
As the country slowly relaxed entry restrictions, the first two months of 2022 saw nearly 50,000 foreign visitors, or about a 72% increase from the same period in 2021. Data from the General Statistics Office showed that more than 33,000 of the visitors came from Asian countries, while 10,130 were from Europe.
Vietnam has by far gone through four coronavirus waves since 2020 — with the latest being the most severe. About 3,480,000 new cases have been recorded in the fourth wave that started on April 27, 2021, accounting for 97% of the total cases.
The Vietnamese government continues to advance its vaccination campaign. As of Tuesday, 75.8 million or 75.8% of the total 97 million population have been fully vaccinated. The government plans to administer booster shots to all of its adult population by the end of March. It has also started inoculating adolescents aged 12-17.