Vietnam to quarantine visitors in coronavirus battle

By Phuong Nguyen
FILE PHOTO: A health worker sprays disinfectant inside a Vietnam Airlines airplane to protect against the recent coronavirus outbreak, at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, Vietnam

By Phuong Nguyen

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam will stop issuing new visas for foreign visitors and will quarantine visitors from countries including the United States in the fight against the coronavirus, state media and the government said on Tuesday.

Weeks after announcing the recovery of all 16 of its coronavirus sufferers, the Southeast Asian nation has confirmed it now has 61 infections, but no deaths, after authorities announced a surge in infections from overseas.

"The government sees the visa suspension policy as an effective measure to constrain the rapid spread of the virus, given many countries are now at high risk of infection," the state-run Nhan Dan newspaper said.

"It's temporary. The restriction will be in place for 15 to 30 days," it added, without saying when the ban would take effect.

In a statement late on Tuesday, the government said Vietnam would introduce a mandatory quarantine for visitors from the United States, Europe and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

The statement did not say when it would introduce the quarantine measures.

Later, national carrier Vietnam Airlines said it would suspend services to France and Malaysia and consider cutting its Southeast Asia flights.

"We will consider reducing Southeast Asia routes based on developments of the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest entry and quarantine regulations of the Vietnamese government," Vietnam Airlines said in a statement.

"Vietnam Airlines will stop services between Vietnam and France from today until further notice, while flights to Malaysia will be suspended from March 18-31," it added.

Hanoi has denied entry to visitors from Europe's Schengen visa-free area and Britain from Sunday, and ordered mandatory quarantine and testing for all arrivals from virus-hit areas.

Schools stayed shut nationwide on Tuesday. Authorities have ordered the closure of cinemas, clubs and bars, massage parlours, karaoke lounges and online game centres in urban areas until the end of March.

The government has advised Vietnamese to call off large gatherings and ordered them to wear masks in public places.


(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by James Pearson, Clarence Fernandez, Timothy Heritage and Giles Elgood)