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Jan 31, 2020 / 10:22

Vietnam stops issuing visas to Chinese tourists, suspends China flights amid nCoV fears

Vietnamese high-ranking officials said though the country has not closed the border with China, it has been taking measures of equivalent seriousness.

Vietnam has decided to stop issuing visas to all Chinese tourists, except for official and diplomatic passport holders, with an aim to curb the spread of a new coronavirus (nCoV) which broke out from China’s Wuhan city in December 2019.

The decision was made during a governmental meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on January 30, local media reported.

 Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the government meeting on Jan. 30. Photo: VGP

PM Phuc required the suspension of tours to and from China while airlines are requested to stop flights from and to epidemic-stricken areas.

Accordingly, authorities need to stop sending Vietnamese workers to China while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should get ready to evacuate citizens out of China if necessary.

The PM also asked the National Steering Committee on nCoV prevention to closely work with local authorities to keep an eye on the nCoV, saying that banning the travelling of residents in border-to-border trails must be made.

Regarding the closure of borders with China, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh said at the meeting that Vietnam can close the borders if necessary. But the closure must meet provisions in an agreement signed with China on closing borders in cases of security or epidemic, Minh added.

However, Minh suggested a number of tough measures including banning the tourist flow between the two countries; temporary suspension of goods customs clearance until February 10; sharing and supporting ASEAN members; boosting the production of medical equipment namely masks and protective clothes; and disseminating information of the epidemic.

Nguyen Thanh Long, deputy head of the Central Propaganda and Training Commission, who was a deputy health minister, said though the border closure was not made, Vietnam can totally take tough measures namely stopping the reception of Chinese tourists and banning tours to China and banning the crossing of Vietnamese citizens at borders with China.

Meanwhile, a large number of local netizens have called for the closure of borders with China.

The senior officials expressed concerns about the epidemic and the possible long spread after Chinese health experts estimated that the contagion might last for two or three months or longer.

The WHO has declared that the China coronavirus a global health emergency as the death toll has surpassed 200.