Ho Chi Minh City authorities have asked the central government for permission to try receiving international visitors who carry vaccine passports from December, instead of early next year as previously planned.
The city’s administration has recently submitted a report to the prime minister and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism seeking permission to execute such a trial plan that consists of three phases.
Pursuant to this plan, foreign travelers will not be placed in seven-day quarantine upon arrival in Vietnam as previously regulated, according to recent guidelines issued by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, but they must have proof of a negative RT-PCR or RT-LAMP test for the coronavirus within 72 hours prior of departure.
They must present full COVID-19 vaccination certificates, also called vaccine passports, recognized by Vietnamese authorities, with the second dose administered at least 14 days and no more than 12 months before their entry, or a certificate of recovery from COVID-19 within six months before their arrival.
Visitors would also be required to have travel insurance that covers COVID-19 with a minimum liability of US$50,000.
In the first phase, qualified international travel agencies are allowed to welcome international guests to Ho Chi Minh City under package travel programs, through charter flights and regular international flights.
From January 2022, as the second phase kicks off, foreign travelers coming under the same requirements as in phase 1 will be allowed to take tours from the city to other localities that have also been approved to welcome international tourists.
Such approved places include Kien Giang Province’s Phu Quoc Island, Da Nang City, Khanh Hoa Province, Quang Ninh Province, and Quang Nam Province.
In the third phase that will start from April 2022, Ho Chi Minh City is expected to fully reopen tourism to international visitors.
Ho Chi Minh City is now qualified to welcome international tourists again, considering its high vaccination coverage, a well-equipped health system, and its experience in response to COVID-19 outbreaks, among others, the city’s administration said in the report.
City authorities have also proposed that the central government restore its visa exemption policy for foreign visitors from certain countries as applied in the pre-pandemic period.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month announced temporary recognition of COVID-19 vaccination certificates issued by 72 countries and territories worldwide.
The ministry also said it was discussing with nearly 80 partners the recognition of each other's vaccine passports.
Ho Chi Minh City received over 8.6 million foreign visitors in 2019, accounting for nearly 50 percent of international arrivals to Vietnam, according to statistics.
From the end of March 2020 until now, due to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, international flights to Vietnam have been allowed to carry goods only while any flights carrying passengers to the country have been subject to approval from Vietnamese authorities, the Vietnam News Agency cited Deputy Minister of Transport Le Anh Tuan as saying.
Flights leaving the country can transport both passengers and goods, the deputy minister added.
Since the pandemic hit Vietnam in early 2020, Ho Chi Minh City has documented nearly 450,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 17,300 deaths, the Ministry of Health reported.
Nationwide, a total of 1,065,469 infections, including 881,593 recoveries and 23,476 fatalities, have been recorded.
Recently, daily infections of both Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City have gradually increased again after a month of sharp decline, but their mortalities keep dropping, to 139 on Thursday from 220 two months earlier for the country, and to 42 from 165 for the city.