A leader of a province that administers Vietnam’s ‘tourism haven’ Phu Quoc has denied a rumor that the Omicron variant of the coronovirus has made it to the island.
Phu Quoc has recorded zero Omicron infections so far, Nguyen Luu Trung, deputy chairman of the People’s Committee of Kien Giang Province, which manages the island, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, referring to the B.1.1.529 variant of SARS-CoV-2.
First reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa on September 24, the Omicron mutant was designated by WHO as a variant of concern two days later.
Scientists said the new variant could be 500 percent more infectious than Delta, which is dominating infections around the world now.
Trung quoted a report by the Kien Giang Department of Health as showing no Omicron cases on Phu Quoc, thus scotching a rumor on social media that the variant had hit the city island.
“This [rumor] is false information spread to subvert the island [administration], at a time when Phu Quoc has been opening to international visitors on a trial basis,” said.
“Local authorities are investigating [the source of this rumor].”
On November 20, more than 200 South Korean tourists landed on Phu Quoc as part of Vietnam’s campaign to welcome back foreign visitors with ‘vaccine passports’ to revive the country’s tourism after its borders had been shuttered since March 2020.
Kien Giang welcomed 317,000 tourist arrivals, including 1,400 foreign visits, all complying with COVID-19 control requirements, according to the provincial People’s Committee.
Three flights are expected to carry 550 vacationers from Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea to Phu Quoc this month.
Phu Quoc, considered a ‘pearl island’ off southern Vietnam, finished fully vaccinating its adult population in late October to prepare for reopening to international visitors.
Previously a district of Kien Giang, it was turned into the country’s first island city on March 1 this year, pursuant to a resolution issued by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee in late 2020.
The island city of 589 square kilometers in area and a 180,000-strong population has confirmed over 1,900 COVID-19 infections since June, according to a local disease control report.
Vietnam, which has recorded almost 1.3 million coronavirus cases and over 26,000 virus-related deaths, has switched to living safely with COVID-19 since October from a zero-tolerance policy toward the coronavirus.
The country announced 13,998 new COVID-19 patients and 203 fatalities on Saturday.