Oct 11, 2021 / 09:29

Controversy over quarantining air passengers, Hanoi remains firm in protecting its people’s health

Hanoi must enforce stricter measures than other provinces and cities to protect the health and safety of local residents’ lives, especially when the risk of Covid-19 disease is still very high.

Though the tough conditions that the municipal government imposed on incoming air passengers have generated controversy, Hanoi remains firm in its position of protecting the capital city from the pandemic.

Some people have expressed discomfort with the conditions of 14-day isolation for passengers on newly-resumed domestic flights arriving in Hanoi.

“The Covid-19 vaccine coverage rates in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi has been over 90%. If you arrive from HCMC to Hanoi and must be put under quarantine for 14 days, what's the meaning of vaccination?” Pham Thanh Kien, a Hanoian, told The Hanoi Times. Kien is living in HCMC and wants to return to his home in Hanoi.

Hanoi allows passengers on some domestic flights to arrive in the capital city on October 10. Photo: Hung Thap

Upon arrival in Hanoi, flight passengers from HCMC, Vietnam’s current Covid-19 epicenter, will undergo paid quarantine for seven days before self-isolating for another seven days at home, according to an official document the Hanoi authority sent to the Ministry of Transport prior to the resumption of domestic flights to the local Noi Bai Airport.

Passengers must present proofs of full vaccination against Covid-19, with the second jab taken no less than 14 days and no more than 12 months before their departures. Otherwise, they can show a report of recovery from Covid-19 issued in the past six months.

Hanoi authorities also required passengers to present coronavirus-negative test results issued within the last 72 hours, comply with pandemic safety rules, and fulfill medical declarations before they can board their flights.

At the request of Hanoi, passengers taking commercial flights to the capital now have to acquire confirmation of the booking from the place they would choose for quarantine before departure.

Passengers must declare their commitment to Covid-19 safety measures, as well as responsibilities for testing and quarantine costs before purchasing tickets.

The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) on October 10 suggested removing the centralized quarantine requirement for air passengers currently applied in several localities to ease the people’s movement.

 Passengers board a plane at Noi Bai International Airport. Photo: Pham Hung

According to the CAAV, aside from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the vaccine coverage rates of other provinces are low, which means a lot of people will not be eligible to fly.

The authority suggested that, as long as passengers come from a "green zone," which means an area where no Covid-19 community cases have been detected in 14 consecutive days, will be allowed to fly, under one condition that they must test negative 72 hours prior to departure.

It said due to strict rules of pandemic prevention, only 11 of 38 flights that had been scheduled took off when domestic flight services resume on October 10.

Explaining the issues, Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh said that Hanoi has just undergone more than two months of social distancing. Although some initial results have been achieved, the city still encounters a very high risk because local infections are still detected in the community.

"Therefore, in order to protect the health and safety of Hanoi residents’ lives, especially when the risk of Covid-19 disease is still very high, Hanoi must enforce stricter measures than other provinces and cities. Hanoi must be kept safe until the second dose of coronavirus vaccine is administered to all local adult people," the deputy PM stressed.

In an interview with The Hanoi Times via phone, Tran Dac Phu, senior advisor to the Vietnam Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC), said that the city's policy is to keep the capital as safe as possible. The opening cannot be massive. The city is pursuing the motto: Safety for the sake of production and production must ensure safety.

"The reason for this step-by-step and cautious opening is because the pandemic risk still remains. The new variant of Covid-19 is very dangerous and unpredictable, while the rate of injection with the second dose of coronavirus is low, which has not yet created herd immunity,” Phu noted.

The Hanoi People’s Committee has agreed with the Ministry of Transport on the reopening of air routes connecting the capital city with the major cities of Danang and HCMC.

Accordingly, commercial flights between Hanoi-HCMC and Hanoi-Danang were resumed on October 10 with one return flight per day at half of the capacity until October 20.

Hanoi has proposed that the Ministry of Transport should keep suspending railway passenger transport to the capital city, as well as flights on other routes to the capital city's Noi Bai International Airport. The municipal authorities will continue to evaluate the pandemic risks based on Covid-19 vaccine coverage to make further adjustments to transport plans