According to Deputy Minister of Education and Training Ngo Thi Minh, the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Health, as well as municipal and provincial authorities, are committed to reopening schools by February 14. Meanwhile, Nguyen Van Hung, Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism proposed a full re-opening of the tourism industry in Vietnam by resuming international travel operations in May.
Schools to re-open by February 14
On January 24, during a conference in Hanoi headed by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, Minh stated that 14 places around the country have permitted in-person learning, 30 others have mixed online and offline learning, and 19 more have delivered classes online or via television. On February 7, 35 other towns will reopen schools, increasing the total to 49, while 14 more will do so on February 12.
Opinions expressed at the event requested that the Ministry of Health establish a new guideline on the severity of the pandemic so that municipalities may take appropriate precautions when schools and tourism activities begin.
Others believe that children from 5 to 11 should be permitted to attend school without being required to get vaccinated. The Ministry of Education and Training (MET) and Ministry of Health (MoH) should order communities to create plans for dealing with school-based illnesses.
Officials from ministries and agencies suggested that more planes be organized to transport overseas Vietnamese back home in accordance with pandemic control and prevention measures. Vietnamese expats in Europe has previously urged the government to resume international flights between Europe and Vietnam.
The Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (MoCST) was also advised to vigorously expand the pilot project to welcome foreign visitors if situations permit, such as by extending their stay or transporting them to locations where locals had received the third vaccination injection.
Tourism industry in Vietnam to re-open in May
The favorable early results of the pilot border reopening to foreign tourists have demonstrated the tourism sector’s resilience, providing a vital foundation for the cultural ministry to propose the full restoration of international travel operations in May, according to an official. Recently, the Immigration Department has announced new measures to ease entry procedures for foreigners, overseas Vietnamese (OV), and their family members holding valid visas or visa exemptions.
Nguyen Van Hung, Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, stated at a workshop on January 24 that tourism was designated as a spearhead industry considerably contributing to national growth, accounting for almost 10% of GDP before the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, coronavirus outbreaks have taken a tremendous toll on the industry, causing it to stagnate.
Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son agreed with the proposal of the MoCST to restart tourism activities on May 1. The Health Ministry issued Decision No.5772/QD-BYT on the process of issuing vaccine passports in view of restarting tourism activities. However, Son said the proposal still requires advice from the Ministries of Public Security, Foreign Affairs, and Culture, Sports, and Tourism, especially on how to control the entry of the Omicron variant into Vietnam.
Approximately 9,000 international travelers have traveled to Vietnam under a trial plan over the past two months, he said, stressing that the good initial results have shown Vietnam as a safe and interesting destination, and the tourism sector as adaptable.
As of January 23, 8,500 people, principally from Russia, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore, had been serviced under a trial program to welcome international visitors in the first stage starting in November 2021.
There is a great opportunity to completely reopen tourism activities, Hung continued, because the country is now one of the top ten performers in vaccination coverage, and the inoculation campaign is being accelerated so that all people in the targeted groups receive the third dose of vaccines by March 30 this year.
He noted that from now until late March, parties concerned must boost up preparations for a smooth return of international visitors while also maintaining safety.
The ministry requested that the trial reopening continue through April 30, and that foreign travel operations, including outbound and inbound trips, begin in full on May 1.
It said that the timing is perfect because if Vietnam delays the opening, the local attraction to global visitors would suffer because several regional nations are also intending to reopen their borders. Meanwhile, the period between now and May is sufficient for concerned ministries and sectors to revise rules and give guidelines, as well as for travel businesses to make plans.
SEA Games is expected to boost tourism industry in Vietnam
In addition, the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) will be held in Vietnam in May. The early official announcement of the reopening of international tourism will aid in attracting visitors from regional nations with high vaccination coverage to support the revitalization of the tourism industry in Vietnam.
Some workshop participants supported the proposal that the tourism industry in Vietnam be fully reopened before May 1.
Vu The Binh, the Vietnam Tourism Association’s Standing Vice Chairman, said the reopening of international travel activities is critical to the economy, and that the successful pilot reopening, improved COVID-19 prevention and control, and a high vaccination rate have given him high confidence that the official reopening can take place immediately.
He also urged the government to increase promotion programs both at home and overseas as soon as possible.