Vietnam to suspend visa-waiver for South Koreans over coronavirus scare
Vietnam will suspend a visa-waiver program for travelers from South Korea today, following a spike in confirmed cases there of the novel coronavirus, creating a knock-on effect for Vietnam’s already struggling tourism industry.
South Koreans visit the ancient town of Hoi An in the central province of Quang Nam in this file photo. Travel restrictions imposed on South Koreans will be a blow to Vietnam’s tourism industry, which is already reeling from travel restrictions on Chinese visitors
This decision is part of the Government’s efforts to contain the spread of the flu-like disease, which emerged in central China more than two months ago from a wildlife market, and to address the economic fallout from the outbreak.
All incoming travelers from South Korea or those having transited through the country will be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
Speaking at a meeting on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam called for continuing control over the country’s borders and incoming travelers as well as the adoption of drastic measures for swift detection and isolation of those suspected of contracting the lethal virus.
“To date, we have yet to record any new cases of infection but must be ready to cope with community spread, as warned by the World Health Organization in the face of new and complex developments of the global Covid-19 outbreak,” Dam said.
He stressed, “We must be more active and must not be absolutely complacent.”
A representative from the Ministry of Transport pointed out the number of flights between the two countries has seen a sharp decline due to the reduction of passengers. As a result, most of the domestic airlines are considering a temporary suspension of flights.
Heavy toll on tourism
The reductions in air services, Vietnam’s travel advisories for South Korea’s virus-stricken areas and the fast-spreading outbreak there will serve further blows to the Vietnamese tourism industry, which is already reeling from a collapse in Chinese visitor numbers.
A number of tour operators told the Saigon Times that they have cancelled the tours of Vietnamese tourists to the Kimchi land due to the outbreak.
“We have contracted with several South Korean firms to receive tourists taking direct flights to Cam Ranh City. But the number of these tourists has been on the decline since early February,” stated a local firm in the south-central coastal province of Khanh Hoa.
Nguyen The Khai, general director of HCMC-based travel firm Perfect Tour, highlighted a similar dampening circumstance. His company has cancelled all of the tours to South Korea and other overseas tours.
“We have cancelled tours for some 600 tourists. We could not take any tourists for the cherry blossom season,” he remarked.
Local tourism firms typically take numerous tours to South Korea, Japan and Taiwan during cherry blossom season.
Reuters reported that in the southern resort of Nha Trang, beaches are empty, tour buses sit idle and many shops have shut down during what would normally be a busy season.
“All the hotels around here are almost empty,” the owner of a hotel on Tran Phu Street in Nha Trang told the news agency by phone. “All the Chinese tourists are gone, and now, the South Korean tourists have gone too.”
Le Trong Vinh, who runs the Nest Hospitality Group with five hotels in the city, pointed out on Wednesday that more than 20% of his guests have canceled bookings in recent days.
South Korea accounted for a quarter of Vietnam’s 18 million tourists last year – the biggest group after Chinese visitors, whose travel has already been curtailed because of the virus.
The number of people infected with the coronavirus in South Korea shot up to 2,337 on Friday, as officials struggled to get a handle on the outbreak, according to a Reuters report. SGT
Vietnamese citizens who return from South Korea’s coronavirus-stricken areas will be isolated and monitored for 14 days starting at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
HCM City's District 7 which is home to 11,061 South Koreans has become quiet since South Korea faces a coronavirus outbreak.