HANOI, Sept. 10 (Reuters) – Vietnam plans to reopen the beach-lined Phu Quoc Island to foreign tourists starting next month, authorities said as the country seeks ways to revive an economy struck by the coronavirus pandemic suffers from prolonged lockdowns.
The island, 10 km (6 miles) off the coast of Cambodia, is slated to open for a trial period of six months, the government said in a statement released late Thursday.
Vietnam, which is currently closed to all visitors except returning citizens and investors, had managed to contain the virus for much of the pandemic but has faced a surge in infections caused by the Delta variant over the past three months .
“The ongoing pandemic has seriously damaged the tourism industry,” said Vietnam’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, Nguyen Van Hung.
Fully vaccinated tourists with a negative coronavirus test can visit Phu Quoc, the statement said, adding that they could fly to the island on charter or commercial flights.
Foreign arrivals to Vietnam fell from 18 million in 2019, when tourism revenue was $ 31 billion, or nearly 12% of gross domestic product, to 3.8 million last year.
At the same time, the lockdowns in recent months have caused companies to cease operations. Industrial production in August was down 7.4% yoy, while exports declined 5.4% and retail sales plummeted 33.7%.
Vietnam will fully vaccinate all Phu Quoc residents before opening, the Ministry of Tourism said, adding that the island has not reported any infections in the community and has adequate COVID-19 quarantine and treatment facilities.
The neighboring Thailand has already partially reopened to foreign tourists, including on the holiday island of Phuket, where around 70% of the population had to be vaccinated.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh admitted this month that Vietnam was facing a protracted battle against the coronavirus, which has infected over 570,000 people and killed 14,400, beyond counting on lockdowns and quarantine. Continue reading
Meanwhile, the State Department announced Thursday that Ho Chi Minh City, the epicenter of the recent outbreak, has allowed restaurants to offer take-out meals and shippers to work wider in a slight relaxation of a tough lockdown. Continue reading
Editing by Ed Davies
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