People walk around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi on Wednesday, some without face masks. A new decree that regulates fines of up to VND3 million (US$130) for not wearing a mask in public will come into effect next month. VNS Photo Bao Hoa

Right now it is not compulsory to wear masks, but many shops and businesses insist on customers covering up.

People travelling on public transport are also required to wear masks but there is no law in place that makes it compulsory.

Despite Vietnam’s success in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still concerns of more spikes – especially as the weather cools.

Elsewhere, Europe and America are facing a coronavirus resurgence and in the UK, many parts of the country have been placed under national lockdown.

When the pandemic was at its height in Vietnam, fines were handed out but normally only in the region of VND100,000-300,000 ($4.3-13).

Draft proposals to reintroduce stiffer penalties have been approved and will come into effect in November 15.

On the streets of Hanoi, residents had mixed views about the sharp increase. Some even said the fines were not tough enough, and penalties should be higher.

Nguyen Kim Phuong, 25, from Kien Giang Province, said: “I think the fines ranging from VND150,000 to VND3 million are not very high.

“It’s our responsibility to protect our health. We have to do it, so I think it doesn’t really matter how much the fine is. If we don’t wear masks in crowded places I think the fine should be higher, while if we go out on our own, like for exercise, it should be a little lower. I think it’s reasonable to have fines ranging from VND1-3 million.”

Tran Xuan Phuc, also 25, from Hanoi, added: “I think the Ministry of Health has its reasons for proposing stiffer fines and it might play a role in raising awareness among people.


“I think I will support it, and I don't think it's very high. People who always wear masks will be unfazed by this change. It might be a little high for remote localities, but since it’s easy to get people to wear masks in communities nowadays, I think people will support the change.”

But some people disagreed, saying the fines were too high, especially for people on low incomes.

Nguyen Xuan Duong, 56, from Hanoi, said: “For someone that makes only VND150,000-200,000 ($3.4-8.6) a day, and sometime even nothing, I think a fine of VND1 million is too much.

“No matter how much we are ordered to pay, whether it’s VND1 million, 3 million or 30 million, if someone doesn’t think it’s their responsibility to prevent the virus from spreading, it won’t do the community any good.

“And since the Government has allowed restaurants, bars, pubs and hotels to reopen, which means more than 30 people can gather, it’s unreasonable to impose a VND1 million fine on someone not wearing masks in public. The proposal needs to be reconsidered.”

Nguyen Thi Loan, 73, also from the capital, agreed. She felt lower fines were still enough of a deterrent to make sure people wore masks.

“I think a penalty of VND100,000-200,000 is enough to warn people,” she said. “If it’s in the millions they won’t be able to pay.

“If it’s someone with a job like a driver, they won’t mind paying VND1-2 million, but if it’s someone with an average income, I think VND100,000-200,000 is enough.”  VNS

Bao Hoa & Minh Phuong

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