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|Vaccine passport remains a difficult project (source: freepik.com)|
After the expanded vaccination programme was first implemented in early March, the Prime Minister assigned relevant ministries to research and reopen international routes and prepare a plan to deploy vaccine passports based on the proposal of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST).
Hopes for vaccination
Over the past month, Vietnamese tourism businesses have still been looking forward to new moves of the authorities, while many countries around the world such as Thailand, Japan, China, and countries in Europe have already approved plans to issue vaccine passports.
According to Chung Sye-kyun, South Korean Prime Minister, the vaccine passport will be provided through an application on a smartphone. While waiting for the parliament to approve the proposal to apply the model solution in the plenary session in June, a number of member countries of the European Union have also begun issuing certificates of COVID-19 vaccination.
Vietnam also plans to use the vaccine passport and develop QR code management software. However, the deployment of vaccine passports in Vietnam will be done step by step, balancing benefits and risks.
Dr. Dang Quang Tan, director of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, said that there are many vaccines circulating in the world and many countries use different COVID vaccines such as from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna, each with different protection.
However, there is no consensus of common standards at the international level to improve the effectiveness of vaccine passports. The question is which vaccines Vietnam will accept, and what other countries will do.
Currently, the EU has proposed to accept only vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), but due to a lack of supply, some member countries have found themselves buying vaccines from Russia and China. Meanwhile, the Chinese vaccine passport only allows foreigners to enter if they get a Chinese vaccine.
“Currently, the vaccination rate in Vietnam has not met the requirements due to the shortage of vaccines and many other reasons. Therefore, the community immunity of the Vietnamese people is exceptionally low. Deploying the vaccine passport but not strictly managing people’s vaccination can spread the virus into the community, and the risk would be uncontrollable,” said Tan.
The Ministry of Health is considering a plan to deploy vaccine passports for three target groups. In the first are Vietnamese people stuck abroad, who are vaccinated and return to their home country. The second group consists of foreigners entering Vietnam to invest and do business. The third group is made up of international tourists from disease-controlled countries, which have deployed vaccines to achieve community immunity.
Although vaccine tourism is expected to be put into operation soon, many tourism businesses also know that these certificates need a tight roadmap to ensure the pandemic prevention measures are followed and the domestic tourism market kept safe. Nguyen Quoc Ky, chairman of Vietravel Holdings, said that providing enough vaccines cannot guarantee that the pandemic will not spread to the community.
The tourism industry needs to build a corridor including all attractions, areas, hotels, and resorts, which are accredited and recognised by the health and tourism agencies. Visitors on entry can only travel within such corridor to minimise any risks.
Regarding the selection of localities to pilot the welcome return of international tourists, according to Ky, there is no need for choosing separate places. Instead, those with airports, tourist facilities and services, and enough healthcare coverage should be chosen, according to Ky.
Thus, Vietnam is currently studying experiences from countries to come up with experimental models in areas such as golf courses or small tourist resorts.
Tran Trong Kien, chairman of the Tourism Advisory Board, said that in the early stages of the pilot’s implementation, Vietnam’s tourism should only welcome visitors on a narrow scale and at appropriate locations such as southern Hoi An in Quang Nam, which owns large coastal tourist resorts that are isolated and far from residential areas, while offering a full set of resort services and independent entertainment areas.
The number of existing rooms in southern Hoi An can accommodate groups from more than 1,000-2,000 guests. If the pilot is successful, by the end of the year, at the tourism peak season, Vietnam could experiment in a wider area such as on islands. Quang Nam was selected by the MoCST to welcome international visitors from July to September this year, focusing on sea resort products and golf tourism for visitors from South Korea, who could stay at Hoiana Complex Resort in Duy Xuyen district and Tui Blue Nam Hoi An in Nui Thanh district for a stay of 5-10 days.
Le Tri Thanh, chairman of Quang Nam People’s Committee said, “Quang Nam has registered for the first pilot phase while learning from experience to move to the second phase with the participation of more tourist resorts and expanding to other international markets.”
Danang’s tourism industry has also prepared plans to welcome international visitors with vaccine passports by choosing suitable destinations and selecting 10 businesses with organisational capacity and economic potential to serve foreign visitors. Meanwhile, Phu Yen has also proposed and built a programme to welcome isolated foreign delegations who can travel the provine to stimulate tourism demand.
Like many other countries, Vietnam is also facing challenges from the demand to reopen and revive the tourism industry, while at the same time, continuing to prevent pandemic from spreading and avoiding any imported viruses from outside.