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Health declaration requirement leads to endless lines at Ho Chi Minh City airport

Thursday, March 12, 2020, 10:22 GMT+7
Health declaration requirement leads to endless lines at Ho Chi Minh City airport
Crew members from a Vietjet Air flight from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City help passengers fill out their medical declaration forms at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A new regulation requiring all arrivals to Vietnam to make a declaration of health – a government mandate enacted to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic – has led to massive lines at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat airport.

The airport’s cordoned-off health declaration area is being staffed by both personnel from local medical quarantine centers and police officers whose primary job is to assist passengers in filling out health declaration forms and ensuring all of the provided information has been double-checked.

The form requests passengers to provide a variety of information, including travel history, contact information, and health symptoms.

In the past few days since the regulation came into effect on March 7, lines to submit the form have seemed to grow exponentially as the health declaration staff became overwhelmed by the sheer number of international arrivals and crowds of passengers jockeying to be vetted first. 

A group of FPT University students provide health declarations at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A group of FPT University students provide health declarations at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Ngo Thi Thu Hang and her son, residents of Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3, experienced the chaos first-hand after touching down in the city from Melbourne.

The mother-son duo had been warned by staff at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport of the new regulation and suggested they fill out their information via an online form before their arrival.

“The process itself was quick because I didn’t have to spend a lot of time filling out a paper version of the form when I arrived,” Hang said.

The majority of arrivals, however, were not quite as prepared and had to make their declarations on paper once arriving at the airport. 

Foreigners, in particular, seemed to have a difficult time deciphering the form and many had to ask for help from locals.

A Vietnamese passenger (right) helps a Canadian national complete the declaration form at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A Vietnamese passenger (right) helps a Canadian national complete the declaration form at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

According to Nguyen Hong Tam, head of the International Health Quarantine Center of Ho Chi Minh City, nearly 10,000 international arrivals pass through Tan Son Nhat each day and the new regulation has added a significant hurdle to immigration procedures. 

Apart from the compulsory medical declaration, passengers must also have their body temperature measured. Those with a fever are given more thorough examinations.

“The medical declaration form is extremely necessary and important. We really hope passengers understand the reasoning for this regulation and take the procedure seriously,” Tam said.

A female pilot shows a completed online health declaration form to a quarantine officer at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 9, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A female pilot shows a completed online health declaration form to a quarantine officer at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 9, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

International arrivals fill out medical declaration forms at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

International arrivals fill out medical declaration forms at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A man fills out his medical declaration form at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A man fills out his medical declaration form at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Long lines formed as passengers eagerly awaited their turn to submit their medical declaration forms at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Long lines form as passengers await their turn to submit their medical declaration forms at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Quarantine officers organize medical declaration forms from passengers at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Quarantine officers organize medical declaration forms from passengers at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A quarantine officer monitors passengers' body temperatures at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A quarantine officer monitors passengers' body temperatures at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Massive lines only got longer throughout the day as more and more passengers arrived in the southern metropolis on March 9, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Massive lines only got longer throughout the day as more and more passengers arrived in the southern metropolis on March 9, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

International arrivals fill out medical declaration forms at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

International arrivals fill out medical declaration forms at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

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