One would have thought a China-Thailand air bridge would be first. No, it's China-Vietnam, putting Vietnam ahead of its neighbors in Southeast Asia in welcoming back Chinese tourists, although full details have yet to be released.
Vietnam has agreed to resume commercial flights to and from China after months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s ministry of transport said on Monday, noting the frequency and timing of flights was still being discussed.
With just 372 infections and no deaths, the Southeast Asian nation has seen no community infections of the virus for nearly three months, allowing it to start resuming economic activity sooner than many other countries.
Vietnam suspended all commercial flights to and from China and stopped issuing visas for Chinese tourists in February after the first cases were detected in the country. A visa suspension for Chinese tourists is still in place.
Aviation authorities in Vietnam and China would decide on when flights would resume and their frequency, the ministry said in a statement.
China is Vietnam’s largest source of foreign tourists and biggest trading partner. Chinese tourists accounted for a third of the 18 million foreign tourists visiting Vietnam last year.
It was not immediately clear if passengers from China would be subject to Vietnam’s centralised 14-day quarantine programme that is currently in place for visitors to the country.
Domestic tourism in Vietnam has boomed in the absence of foreign arrivals, who normally account for roughly half of all tourist spending in the country.
Officials at the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Foreign experts and skilled workers, including those from China, have been able to enter Vietnam throughout the pandemic, provided they undergo mandatory quarantine.
Photo credit: Hello once more: Glimpses of Phu Quoc resort island from the window of an airplane. James Pearson / Reuters