Vietnamese island reopens for tourism

Vietnam plans to reopen the beach-fringed island of Phu Quoc to foreign tourists from next month, authorities said, as the country looks for ways to revive its economy after a long lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The island, 10 kilometers (6 miles) off the coast of Cambodia, is expected to open for a six-month trial period, the government said in a statement late on Sept. 9.

Vietnam, currently closed to all tourists except returning citizens and investors, managed to keep the virus under control for much of the pandemic, but the delta variant has caused a surge in infections over the past three months. “The protracted pandemic has seriously hurt the tourism industry,” said Nguyen Van Hung, Vietnam’s Minister of Tourism and Culture.

Tourists who are fully vaccinated and have tested negative for the coronavirus will be eligible to visit Phu Quoc, the statement said, adding that they can fly to the island on chartered or commercial flights.

Foreign tourist arrivals in Vietnam fell from 18 million in 2019 to 3.8 million last year, when tourism brought in $31 billion, or nearly 12 percent of its gross domestic product.

Meanwhile, the lockdown in recent months has prompted companies to suspend operations. In August, industrial output fell 7.4% year-on-year, exports fell 5.4%, and retail sales fell 33.7%.

Vietnam will fully vaccinate all residents of Phu Quoc island before opening, the Ministry of Tourism said, adding that the island has not reported any community infections and has sufficient COVID-19 quarantine and treatment facilities.

Neighboring Thailand has partially reopened to foreign tourists, including the resort island of Phuket, where about 70% of the population requires vaccinations.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Trung acknowledged this month that Vietnam cannot rely solely on lockdowns and quarantines as it faces a prolonged battle with the coronavirus, which has infected more than 570,000 people and killed 14,400.

Meanwhile, restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, the epicenter of the latest outbreak, are allowed to offer takeaway meals, allowing shippers to conduct wider business as strict lockdowns are eased slightly, the foreign ministry said Sept. 9.

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