Vietnam welcomes first tourists to resort island after 2 years

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – More than 200 foreign tourists arrived on Vietnam’s largest Phu Quoc island on Saturday, the first to visit the Southeast Asian country after nearly two years of border closures due to of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fully vaccinated travelers from South Korea will be vacationing in resorts without a mandatory 14-day quarantine. They were tested on arrival, and once negative results are obtained, they can participate in activities on the island, including tours, shopping and entertainment requiring vaccination certificates.

“The program is part of the country’s efforts to revive its tourism industry while reopening and developing the economy step by step in a new normal context,” said Nguyen Trung Khanh, chairman of the Vietnamese Tourism Administration, who greeted the charter flight on the airport tarmac.

According to the Ministry of Health, all staff working in service facilities and 99% of adult residents of Phu Quoc have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The island plans to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 17 next month.

Vietnam closed its border in March 2020, shortly after confirming its first case of COVID-19.

Since then, it has only allowed a few international flights a week with foreign experts, diplomats and returning Vietnamese nationals. These international arrivals must undergo a 14-day quarantine at designated hotels or government-operated facilities.

Vietnam is the latest Asian country to open up to fully vaccinated visitors. Thailand had started by limiting tourists to its southern island of Phuket before expanding to other regions, including Bangkok, since November 1. opened the island of Langkawi as part of a pilot bubble program.

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