The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have cost Vietnam a lot of money – some VND 200,000 billion (US$ 9.4 billion) in budget revenue thus far, as per government estimates – but according to Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, the country has no choice but to persist with its blanket ban on international tourism.

“Vietnam could pay dearly if it were to reopen its doors to international tourists now, as the pandemic can resurface in the country at any time,” Prime Minister told a National Assembly discussion session on Monday. He also added that although the government is aware that many businesses eagerly anticipate the resumption of international travel, the time simply isn’t right for such a move.

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc. Photo: Vietnam Government Portal.

Moving forward, Vietnam’s authorities intend to carry on with the hard-line approach and sustained vigilance against coronavirus, putting people’s safety first. There have been no COVID-19 community transmissions in Vietnam for over two months now – but rather than let the guard down, PM Phúc urged that the nation should steel itself for the coming winter so as to prevent new outbreaks, the fear being that the virus could transmit more easily in cold, dry weather.

Accordingly, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control has ordered all localities nationwide to continue to abide by strict measures to prevent the re-emergence of the epidemic, advising that masks are worn all across the country, especially at shopping centres and on public transport. 

During a meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam, the committee also weighed different scenarios on how Vietnam could resume commercial flights with a few select countries in the region which have managed to contain the pandemic, but for now these flights would only be allowed to carry foreign experts and investors.

While Vietnam’s tourism sector was hit badly when the country closed its borders to foreign tourists in late March, Vietnam still managed to become the only ASEAN country to record positive GDP growth in the first half of 2020. According to the Economist, Vietnam is among 16 economies worldwide with a chance to narrow the gap with some of the richer countries as the world grapples with another surge in COVID-19 infections.