June 25, 2020 / 6:22 AM / a month ago

Virus-free Vietnam not ready to open doors to foreign tourists yet: PM

FILE PHOTO: Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc waits for the start of a special video conference with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hanoi April 14, 2020. Manan Vatsyayana/Pool via REUTERS

HANOI (Reuters) - Despite successfully containing its COVID-19 outbreak, Vietnam has no plans to open up to international tourists yet over fears that doing so could lead to a second wave of infections, the Southeast Asian country’s prime minister said on Wednesday.

Thanks to an aggressive, targeted testing programme and a centralised quarantine system, Vietnam has contained infections numbers to a relatively low 352 cases, most of whom have recovered. There have been no reported deaths.

“There is no story of rushing to open the doors,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a statement posted to the government website on Wednesday.

“Vietnam is not yet ready to welcome back international tourists. Foreign experts, high level workers and investors into Vietnam are welcomed but will be closely monitored.”

Highly skilled foreign experts such as engineers have been allowed to enter Vietnam on special flights and quarantine at hotels in a bid to keep the economy afloat throughout the global pandemic. Phuc said the frequency of such flights should be increased.

For over two months, Vietnam has reported no community transmission of the coronavirus. In early June, Vietnam said it was planning to resume flights to some virus-free countries that had registered no cases of coronavirus for 30 days or more.

Other Southeast Asian countries with slowing infections are considering travel bubble arrangements in the months ahead, such as Malaysia and Thailand, to include countries such as China, South Korea and Japan.

Thailand has been 31 days without a domestic transmission and will allow entry of some short-term business travellers and medical tourists from next month.

Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by James Pearson and Martin Petty

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