|Lifting the weight off quarantine facilities|
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has agreed that the country will charge all arrivals into Vietnam a mandatory quarantine fee from September 1, regardless of whether they are foreigners or Vietnamese.
Meanwhile, quarantine measures at chargeable accommodations are guided by the Ministry of Finance in coordination with the Ministry of Health. In addition, the Ministry of Public Security works together with local authorities, especially from the health sector, to closely supervise isolation and prevention measures.
PM Phuc said that as there is still a risk of community transmission, people should not forget about basic prevention measures amid the new normal, such as wearing a mask, regular hand washing, limiting crowds of people outside the workplaces, schools, and hospitals, and social distancing efforts. Nevertheless, medical examination and treatment expenses will continue to be paid by the state budget according to Clause 2, Article 48 of the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases.
While preventing new local outbreaks of the pandemic and coping with the economic aftermath, Vietnam still organises repatriation flights to bring overseas Vietnamese back home. Up to now, Vietnam has organised more than 80 flights to bring more than 21,000 Vietnamese citizens from 50 countries and territories around the world back to their homeland.
Additionally, after initially stopping all commercial routes from April 1, the country now aims at creating favourable conditions for foreign experts to enter Vietnam. Such plans for priority locations have been discussed since the end of July, such as for Guangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo, Taiwan, Vientiane, and Phnom Penh.
In the short term, commercial routes with South Korea and Japan will be considered to reopen at the request of the Prime Minister, starting with flights bringing Vietnamese workers to these two countries. Vietnam will also open for senior personnel of South Korean businesses to enter, who undertake short-term work, as well as for investors.
If the plan to operate these six routes is implemented, it is expected that Vietnam will receive 2,500-3,000 passengers per week. However, all these experts and highly qualified foreign workers will have to conduct a 14-day quarantine following regulations. However from this week, the Ministry of Health released new regulations stating that foreign experts, managers and diplomats coming to Vietnam for less than 14 days no longer have to quarantine upon arrival.
Previously, suggestions have been made that Vietnam should implement fee-based isolation procedures, working together with hotels and resorts to both reduce the burden and pressure on state-owned facilities and generate more revenue for accommodation businesses which suffered under the halted tourism. The isolation at hotels and resorts may also help those who enter Vietnam to feel more secure while limiting cross-contamination in quarantine areas, which are often overloaded.
For several months now, quarantine fees have been applied in some localities such as Hanoi, Bac Giang, Ho Chi Minh City, and Binh Duong, with consensus from businesses in the area. Many industrial parks and businesses that welcomed foreign experts, managers, and technical workers often chose hotels to isolate these people and have been willing to pay all costs, while the localities have been supporting with personnel and equipment for transportation and inspections during the isolation.
Nguyen Khac Hien, director of the Hanoi Department of Health, said that up until August 31, all centralised isolation fees (except those for foreigners who chose to isolate at hotels) were funded by the state budget, including meals for VND100,000 ($4.30) per day, living expenses, accommodation, and internet access. With the new rule, these free services will begin to become chargeable in some places.
Currently, the departments of health and tourism and related agencies are reviewing the list of hotels participating in concentrated isolation services. Several quarantine facilities for foreigners in Hanoi will switch to these chargeable services.
However, the services and prices for isolation procedures are not yet agreed on and may differ based on the location. The city is now waiting for the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance to agree on a common price for these measures.
According to statistics by the Ministry of Health, at the end of August, there were over 1,100 isolated people at hospitals and more than 16,000 in other facilities.
By Hoang Oanh