Coronavirus Global

Vietnam delays move to reopen resort island to foreign tourists

HANOI • Vietnam has pushed back a plan to reopen the resort island of Phu Quoc to foreign tourists until November, after failing to meet targets for inoculating residents due to insufficient vaccine supplies, state media reported.

The South-east Asian nation, which is currently shut to all visitors apart from returning citizens and investors, has been struggling to speed up inoculations to help contain a spike in Covid-19 cases driven by the Delta variant in recent months.

The authorities had initially planned to allow vaccinated foreign tourists to return to Phu Quoc next month to revive the tourism sector and prop up the economy.

"We have to inoculate residents here for herd immunity but vaccine supplies are falling short," the state-run VTC newspaper quoted Mr Huynh Quang Hung, chairman of Phu Quoc City's People's Committee, as saying.

Last week, the island's authorities said an additional 250,000 to 300,000 doses were needed to achieve herd immunity. So far, only 2.9 per cent of residents in Kien Giang, the province that hosts Phu Quoc, had received two doses, official data showed.

Overall, 7.3 per cent of Vietnam's 98 million people are fully vaccinated.

Phu Quoc on Monday detected a new Covid-19 cluster after months with no local cases, though provincial authorities said it was under control and would not affect the reopening plan.

The authorities said Phu Quoc would have a phased reopening over a six-month period starting on Nov 20, with up to three chartered flights touching down per week.

Under the plan, the island expects to welcome 3,000 to 5,000 visitors over the trial period, with compulsory Covid-19 tests conducted by the authorities, VTC said in Thursday's report.

It remained unclear if visitors will have to undergo a seven-day quarantine period as requested by Vietnam's Health Ministry.

Foreign arrivals in Vietnam slumped from 18 million in 2019, when tourism revenue was US$31 billion (S$41.9 billion) or nearly 12 per cent of gross domestic product, to 3.8 million last year.

The plans to welcome back tourists come as Malaysia last week reopened its Langkawi island to domestic visitors, while Thailand has opened Phuket and Ko Samui to vaccinated foreign tourists.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2021, with the headline 'Vietnam delays move to reopen resort island to foreign tourists'. Subscribe