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Vietnam to reopen resort island to foreign tourists to spice up economy

HANOI

Vietnam plans to reopen the beach-fringed island of Phu Quoc to foreign tourists from next month, authorities said, because the country looks at ways to revive an economy affected by extended lockdowns thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

The island, 10 kilometres off the coast of Cambodia is predicted to open for an attempt period of six months, the govt said during a statement issued late on Thursday.

Vietnam, which is currently shut to all or any visitors aside from returning citizens and investors, had managed to contain the virus for much of the pandemic but within the past three months has faced a surge in infections driven by the Delta variant. “The prolonged pandemic has seriously hurt the tourism industry,” Vietnamese Turism and Culture Minister Nguyen Van Hung said.

Fully vaccinated tourists with a negative coronavirus test are going to be eligible to go to Phu Quoc, the statement said, adding they might fly to the island on chartered or commercial flights.

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Foreign arrivals to Vietnam slumped from 18 million in 2019, when tourism revenue was $31 billion, or nearly 12% of its gross domestic product, to 3.8 million last year.

At an equivalent time, lockdowns in recent months have prompted companies to suspend operations. August industrial output fell 7.4% from a year earlier, while exports were down 5.4% and retail sales plunged by 33.7%.

Vietnam will fully vaccinate all residents on Phu Quoc before opening, the tourism ministry said, adding that the island had not reported any community infections and had sufficient Covid-19 quarantine and treatment facilities.

Neighbouring Thailand has already partially reopened to foreign tourists, including on the resort island of Phuket, where about 70% of the population were required to be vaccinated.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh conceded this month that Vietnam was facing a lengthy battle against the coronavirus, which has infected over 570,000 people and killed 14,400, so couldn’t just believe lockdowns and quarantine.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday Ho Chi Minh City, the epicentre of the newest outbreak, has allowed restaurants to supply takeaway meals and shippers to work more widely during a slight relaxation of a troublesome lockdown.

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