Ahead of Vietnam tourism opening, Omicron daily toll nears 100,000 – The Diplomat

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Beat ASEAN | Society | South East Asia

On March 15, the government plans to fully reopen the country to international tourists.

Vietnam is now registering nearly 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron drives an unprecedented outbreak nationwide. The country’s health authorities recorded 98,864 new infections on Saturday, marking a new daily record in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic, followed by another 86,990 yesterday.

The spike, which began in January before taking off in earnest in the second week of February, took Vietnam’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases to more than 3.3 million, the fourth highest in South Asia. -Is, both in absolute and relative terms.

The near-vertical spike in infections, which is more than five times higher than the spike Vietnam saw during last year’s Delta variant outbreak, comes as the country prepares, like many of its neighbors. Southeast Asia, to reopen its borders to international visitors.

Two weeks ago, the Vietnamese government announced that it would fully reopen international tourism and lift all COVID-19-related travel restrictions from March 15, after two years of effective isolation from the outside world. To be eligible, tourists must be fully vaccinated and produce a negative COVID-19 test before departure and upon arrival, AFP reported. Each visitor must also carry COVID-19 insurance worth at least $10,000.

Over the past two decades, Vietnam’s tourism industry has grown by leaps and bounds, in line with its dynamic economy. Before the pandemic, it was worth some $32 billion a year, or more than 10% of GDP, making its recovery a critically important issue in the government’s broader plan to revive the economy, which, despite its relative resilience during the pandemic, recorded some of its worst quarterly performances since 2000.

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The current spike in cases is unlikely to derail the government’s reopening plans. After a delayed start, Vietnam now has one of the highest vaccination rates in Southeast Asia, with more than 78% of adults having received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the government plans to administer boosters to its entire adult population by the end of it. Of March. The government is also considering vaccinating teenagers.

Additionally, given the relatively low levels of hospitalizations and deaths associated with the Omicron variant, it is highly likely that with careful management, the peak will subside within a reasonable time. This week, epidemiologists said cases in the capital Hanoi are expected to peak in mid-March, after which they should start to decline. In the case of the Philippines, where the country overtook last year’s delta surge shortly after the New Year holidays, the downturn was as rapid as the peak, falling from more than 30,000 cases a day in mid -January to about 1,000 currently.

For similar reasons, Thailand last week announced its own easing of COVID-19 restrictions in preparation for the resumption of tourism, despite being in the midst of a similar spike in cases. As a spokesperson for Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health noted, the death rate currently stands at around 0.19%, about a tenth of the rate recorded during the Delta outbreak last year. .

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